Mareeba My research Weipa Mission

North Queensland fieldwork projects, 2010-11

Today I’m happy to report I have been successful with two funding applications to carry out fieldwork projects in north Queensland over the next  year or so. The funds – $150,000 in total – have been provided by the Indigenous Heritage Program (IHP) and were announced by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Arts last week. The first project is completely new one for me, and will be carried out with the Muluridji People whose land is near Mareeba, near Cairns in north Queensland. The second is a continuation of earlier work with Anhatangaith people at the site of the former Weipa mission, which I have written about here before.

The  Muluridji Heritage Project will involve working around Mareeba on the upper catchments of the Barron and Mitchell Rivers. The project is a essentially a baseline study of Indigenous cultural heritage places in this poorly investigated area which lies in an area with wet tropical rainforests to the east, and dry open savannah woodland to the west. While my interest is pre-contact archaeological sites, the project takes quite a broad approach to cultural heritage and we’re aiming to identify and record pre-contact archaeological sites, areas of traditional importance and historical places. We expect to start fieldwork by around September this year, with the project to be completed by mid 2011.

Ceramic Dolls Head (scale = 1 cm

The second project involves detailed work at the site of the original Weipa Mission (1892-1932).  The area, known as ’20 Mile’ or ‘Waypenden‘  is part of the lands of the  Anhatangaith people, who are seeking to have the site protected from vandalism, pilfering of artefacts and so on. This project is a continuation of ongoing community history and heritage project that is broadly investigating the experiences of Aboriginal people at Weipa during the ‘mission era’ (1898-1966). I’ve written previously here about how the project initially began, as well as about work at the more recent (post-1932 site) here and here. Upon reflection, I should really be writing more about this project because it is really very interesting, however finding time is sometimes challenging and there are also important ethical issues about disclosing historical or cultural information about the history of the community. We’ll be spending about 6 weeks on the site filling in gaps on what is already quite a detailed GIS database  and acquiring some detailed data on artefact scatters across the mission site for further desktop analysis.

Both projects will generate some good research outcomes as well as good outcomes for the management of Indigenous heritage places. One key element of both projects is the use of Google Earth to present heritage data to community members, and to establish an easy to use database that Indigenous management groups can use. I’m working on another post at the moment in which I will outline in detail just how I plan to do that and may even do a conference paper on this later this year.

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