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Plenary: Place and existential crisis in Australia 
Marcia Langton (University of Melbourne)
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Sue Black (Lancaster University)
Start time:
14 September, 2020 at 13:00
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

Australian modernity has allowed only a vestigial space for the worlds of the first Australians. The material and geographical manifestations of Australian Aboriginal cultures developed over more than 65,000 years is being rapidly destroyed by mining companies, urban settlement, road and infrastructure development and vandalism. In this lecture, I sketch the main issues: the regulatory regime has failed to prevent destruction across vast landscapes while a few in our disciplines are waving small red flags on the sidelines of a political and economic struggle for enormous mineral wealth that sacrifices places, culture and heritage that belong to humanity. Belatedly, the legislation relating to culture and cultural heritage are the subject of two government reviews in Australia and this has focussed the attention of a few anthropologists, archaeologists and museologists, and a small public on one event in particular – the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves where archaeologists had found evidence of continuous Aboriginal occupation over a period of 46,000 years. The intersection of our disciplines with industry and government has been critical in this existential crisis, but as mere witnesses and chroniclers, our influence warrants a greater impact. Our engagement is at risk of complicity without a robust response.