Accepted Paper:

"But if they keep digging deep down they might find something": the heritage consultative meeting, performing heritage and sustaining livelihoods  


Edward McDonald (Ethnosciences)
Bryn Coldrick (Ancestral Voices Ltd)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the on-site 'heritage consultative meeting' in which 'consequential talk' plays a central role, as integral in the performance of Aboriginal heritage and an essential element in sustaining Aboriginal livelihoods in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Paper long abstract:

Aboriginal heritage assessments, including archaeological and ethnographic surveys and community consultations, are central to approvals processes, for mineral exploration and mining in the Pilbara and other regions of Western Australia. These processes have given rise to a 'heritage economy' which forms a sizeable portion of the domestic economy in Aboriginal communities.

Integral to the assessment processes is the on-site 'heritage consultative meeting', which forms part of a larger process of community, commercial and statutory meetings and decision-making processes or 'conjured contexts' (Brown, Reed & Yarrow 2017). During the on-site 'heritage consultative meeting', Aboriginal people are routinely required to assess the significance of places and objects and comment on their management, including proposals for mitigative archaeological research such as test excavations. In the latter case, they may be asked to decide about investigating an indeterminate or conjured object, referred to as a potential archaeological deposit.

Drawing on the 'ethnography of meetings' (Schwartzman 1989), we seek to provide an ethnographic analysis of 'the heritage consultative meeting' as a central element in the performance of heritage in Western Australia. The paper examines how the 'heritage consultative meeting', as a 'communicative event' in which 'consequential talk' plays a central role in participants resolution of emergent heritage issues and how the decisions emerge as a series of situated relationships between people, places, objects, potentials, and documents. While at the same time addressing its role in sustaining Aboriginal livelihoods within the 'heritage economy'.

Panel P04
Performing heritage, sustaining livelihoods: resilience, recognition and relationality