NSW Aboriginal Archaeology Future Forum

On 15 September 2023, the Australian Museum and the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists INC (AACAI) jointly hosted the third annual NSW Aboriginal Archaeology Future Forum on Gadigal Country in Sydney.

The NSW Aboriginal Archaeology Future Forum is an annual gathering for discussion on key emerging themes about NSW Aboriginal archaeology and heritage, with an emphasis on First Nations participation and perspectives.

Attended by Aboriginal community members, archaeological consultants, heritage managers and researchers, the forum provides an opportunity to share knowledge, showcase current projects and achievements and discuss aspirations for the future of archaeological conservation, research and heritage management. GML’s CEO, Sharon Veale, and Principal, Dr Tim Owen, attended this year’s event.

Following a smoking ceremony and welcome in Cook and Phillip Park, this year’s forum focused on current management for Aboriginal cultural objects, Aboriginal engagement and self determination in archaeological practice and a reflection on where we are in the journey towards Aboriginal cultural heritage legislative reform in New South Wales.

The urgent need for legislative reform was highlighted by a panel discussion titled, ‘A bag of rocks’ which talked to the absence of culturally meaningful scientific research and relevant community outcomes within Wonnarua Country after decades of mining activities in the Upper Hunter.

The standout in terms of progressive management is the City of Parramatta’s Dharug Keeping Place, developed in collaboration with local Dharug people, and a place for the return to Paramatta of cultural materials excavated from archaeological sites. The repository will provide a safe, long term storage facility, to enable cultural materials to return to Parramatta, and be accessible to Dharug peoples and others following an approved request for access.

The event’s afternoon involved collaborative work to determine the future of the forum, with all participants asked to input into a session where directions were established.  The Australian Museum will take the outcomes to determine how the next event is hosted in 2024.