The loss of the Djab Wurrung tree has highlighted one of the ongoing challenges faced by Indigenous communities both in Australia and overseas: the recognition and protection of cultural landscapes. The Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) Inc acknowledges that First Nations people across the country routinely find themselves in the distressing situation of having to decide which irreplaceable heritage they value over another in order to make way for infrastructure. The absence of a landscape approach to heritage management exacerbates this issue.

Cultural heritage should not be viewed as individual sites or material culture, rather they must be recognised as integral parts of cultural landscapes. The removal of any component of that landscape reduces the significance of the whole, generating more painful experiences for First Nations people.

The AAA Inc. calls on state and federal governments to provide legislative frameworks that better acknowledge Indigenous perspectives regarding the holistic connection between cultural heritage and landscape. Further, it is essential that they work collaboratively and proactively with First Nations people as a minimum standard. We acknowledge that, in this instance, all options for salvage of the most significant cultural elements of the landscape were considered, and in consultation with the Indigenous community, the least destructive option was taken. At a national scale, these actions will not only help mitigate further damage to cultural landscapes by encouraging stronger recognition and appreciation of their cultural value, but also foster greater respect towards First Nations people and their continuous connection to the land and their culture.

AAA National Executive

12th November 2020