From missionaries to Mabo: Place-based heritage management and native title in Torres Strait

Ian James McNiven, Garrick Hitchcock

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Nineteenth century colonialism had a major impact on Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage sites, ranging from the destructive practices of missionaries to the collection practices of outsiders including government officials, traders, and anthropologists. Many cultural heritage sites have also been damaged or destroyed as a result of government infrastructure developments over the past half century. An immediate consequence of the successful 1992 Mabo native title case was that Torres Strait Islander communities were empowered to help minimise the impacts of a number of large-scale developments upon cultural heritage sites and places. Unfortunately, these positive steps have not translated well to local community infrastructure developments such that the region is now out-of-step with well-established processes of cultural heritage assessment and protection on the mainland. Indeed, Torres Strait has developed a reputation for cultural heritage assessment that falls below national standards of best practice. While in principle native title rights and State legislation provide scope for adequate site protection, local native title bodies are poorly resourced to implement best practice impact assessments of infrastructure developments and respond to the new challenges of erosion of coastal sites from sea level rise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe right to protect sites
Subtitle of host publicationIndigenous cultural heritage management in the era of native title
EditorsPamela Faye McGrath
Place of PublicationCanberra ACT Australia
PublisherAboriginal Studies Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781922102386
ISBN (Print)9781922102393
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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