There is only one registered site of aboriginal significance across the entire City of Unley’s 14.2 km². When people started arriving, first from the UK then Europe, Asia and indeed every part of the globe there was very little thought given to determining how or what part of the land was of cultural or religious significance to the aboriginal people.
“I know I would feel a raw anger and outrage, indeed I would feel an abhorrent hatred towards a society that held my great grandfather in a glass cabinet“
Roads were constructed, foundations laid for housing, drainage systems installed and large public works commenced and we built the wonderful society that we see around us today. We built the wonderful society that we see around us completely ignorant of and perhaps negligent towards finding out where the places and locations of aboriginal significance were.
Whilst culturally and spiritually the traditional aboriginal society had very different equivalents to our own places of worship and cemeteries, they nonetheless had these places which they held with this much awe and reverence as we do today.
Over the last two hundred years, during the construction and building of our transport networks and neighborhoods we did indeed come across many artifacts which we loosely recognized as significant remains or cultural artifacts. We diligently handed these in to the authorities, had them cataloged and they’re encased in museums both here in Adelaide and indeed around the world.
Indulge me for a moment and let’s try and discover a way to understand with empathy how the living aboriginal people today must feel about this. One technique we might use would be to imagine if a completely foreign culture (and let’s say for argument sake that was the Brazilian culture) should arrive and take possession of all the land and control of everything that is here. Imagine if these Brazilians were to build housing estates over-the-top of our cemeteries, put large roads through the center of our cathedrals and churches. Imagine your ancestors remains having been dug up from the cemetery then being enclosed in glass cabinets stored away in museums and the artifacts and symbols to which you connect to God being held in storage for touring exhibitions. There would be very few people in society who would willingly consent to this.
I know I would feel a raw anger and outrage, indeed I would feel an abhorrent hatred towards a society that held my great grandfathers remains in a glass cabinet, without any consent whatsoever. It’s strange when you realize that society has more community consultation for removing a lightbulb.
Which is why I think it’s so very important that the Kaurna and the 26 South Australian metropolitan councils which are a party to the indigenous land-use agreement (ILUA) finalize this agreement without too much further delay. This ILUA will indeed establish a framework whereby the Kaurna (which are the traditional owners of the Adelaide planes) will be able to respectfully deal with councils and developers when significant cultural and spiritual artifacts are uncovered during construction.
When the ILUA is finally agreed to it will be a very practical demonstration of effective and respectful reconciliation in action.