Case Studies

For State Significant Developments (SSD), the conditions of the approved consent will stipulate that an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan (ACHMP) is developed. The ACHMP, when approved, then becomes the guiding document for the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the consent area. These plans often set out the archaeological context of the area by listing and mapping all known Aboriginal sites so that the landholder is aware of exactly where all Aboriginal cultural values are located. The ACHMP will then set out polices governing such things as the approved salvage of sites, the methods by which other sites may be conserved, protocols for new site discoveries or the unearthing of human remains, and any other aspects pertaining to Aboriginal cultural heritage such as the storage of artefacts or access to sites by the local Aboriginal community. OzArk has written a number of ACHMPs; primarily for mines both in the Hunter Valley and in the Dubbo region. OzArk strives to make these plans workable documents that clearly set out the requirements for the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage so that anyone can pick up the ACHMP and know exactly what is required. OzArk believes that a well-written ACHMP is a powerful tool to ensure the proper management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in an area and to ensure that as much as possible of this heritage is preserved.

An ACHMP can stipulate that sites within an area are signed so that they are not inadvertently damaged by such things as vehicle movements.
An ACHMP can set out the methodology of salvage works within an area; such as manual excavation in areas that are approved for disturbance.

In 2018 OzArk undertook test excavations on the Central Coast to facilitate the expansion of infrastructure necessary for the rapidly expanding population of the area. Test excavations are carried out when the nature and extent of subsurface deposits cannot be determined from the surface survey. Examples could be where the ground surface of a likely landform is obscured by thick ground cover, or an extensive surface scatter is located in an area where soil depth—and hence archaeological deposits—are possible. As a ‘test excavation’, the aim is only to sample an area to see what lies beneath and this, in turn, can then help inform the management recommendations of the project. In the Central Coast example, a surface scatter was located across a broad knoll that had been disturbed by both recreational vehicle use and soil loss from sheet wash erosion. Initially the assessment was that subsurface deposits would be very unlikely due to the soil loss. However, as part of the consultation process, it became evident that the local Aboriginal community were concerned that there could be a subsurface element to the site. In order to have certainty, the client agreed to a one day test excavation program to investigate the site further. Over the course of the day, 18 excavation pits were excavated across all characteristic portions of the site. In the end, only one artefact came from the excavations. While this may seem disappointing, we now are certain that there is no subsurface component to the site and, most importantly, if the site is to be harmed that this harm is not impacting a site of high archaeological values.

Test excavation underway in an area of the site where ground cover does not allow an adequate view of the ground surface to be obtained.
Test excavation normally involves excavating 0.5 m by 0.5 m pits and dry sieving the deposits on site to record all artefacts from that pit.

 

In 2018 OzArk has been involved with the archaeological assessment of two large projects at coal mines in the upper Hunter Valley. These projects involve many hundreds of hectares of potential impact area and necessitated weeks of archaeological survey followed by sometimes extensive test excavation programs. The field survey was accomplished with the assistance of the local Aboriginal community and involved walking numerous transects across the whole of the study area to record all Aboriginal cultural heritage features. These features mostly consisted of artefact sites—ranging from artefact scatters with many hundreds of artefacts to single artefact finds—but also included culturally modified trees and the inspection of several rock shelters for evidence of Aboriginal occupation. Following the field survey and any required test excavation, the results were compiled into large reports many hundreds of pages long that establish the archaeological context of the study area, the results of the field investigations and recommendations regarding the management or mitigation of harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage in the study area. These recommendations are then incorporated into the Environmental Impact Statement being prepared for the projects and will become the basis of conditions pertaining to Aboriginal cultural heritage in the Project Approval if it is consented.

Field survey takes the form of archaeologists and the Aboriginal community walking transects at a fixed spacing. Such a methodology is likely to capture all significant sites.
During the field survey, all artefacts noted, such as this ground-edge axe, are recorded. This enables the archaeological characteristics of an area to be determined.

 

During 2017 and 2018 OzArk worked with our client to facilitate the application for an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit to allow the excavation and repatriation of an Aboriginal skeleton that had been discovered on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. With assistance from the local Aboriginal community and an osteoarchaeologist from the University of Sydney, OzArk made sure that that the repatriation occurred in a culturally sensitive manner while ensuring that a lot of information could be gained about the individual who had been found. In the end it appears the skeleton was of an 18 year old male who likely died after suffering a severe trauma to the side of his head. There is no indication that this was a post-colonisation death and we may be witness to either a tragic accident, or the result of warfare or retribution. Wrapped in the skin of a grey kangaroo and with white ochre sprinkled over the bone bundle, the local Aboriginal community ensured that the young man was respectively reburied close to his original resting place.

Clients and local Aboriginal community in front of a craving made in a nearby tree to serve as a marker for the repatriation location.
Local Aboriginal community prepare the skeleton that has been wrapped in a kangaroo skin and placed on a coolamon for reburial.