Showing posts with label indigenous culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indigenous culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

A new year brings old threats to the Clarence River estuary and communities along its banks

Preoccupied with major fire activity since September 2019, it was easy to miss this renewal of cruise industry pressure.....

On 4 October 2019 published an article titled 

This is an extract from that article which will be of considerable interest to communities with environmental, cultural and economic concerns about cruise ships seeking entry into the Clarence River.

"Mayor Cr. Jim Simmons says “We can see a lot of economic benefits for the area…but so far we have had some community angst around the idea and that stems from our experience with large ships in the past. Our concerns are purely environmental concerns, but if that’s all covered, then the community may be very positive.

“Many years ago we had the big timber ships and large vessels coming into the sugar mill – but so far we haven’t had large passenger cruise ships,” Cr. Simmons added.

“If the ships are moored offshore, with passengers tendered in on smaller boats and all of the measures are put in place to protect the ocean environment then this would be something great for Yamba.”

The Clarence Valley mayor has obviously drunk the cruise industry Kool-Aid, if he seriously believes that cruise ships will make any significant contribution to the economies of Yamba, Iluka or Maclean.

There is enough evidence to the contrary coming from cities and towns around the world that have become cruise destinations. Specifically the fact that cruise lines inflate projections of the spending capacity of their passengers which are rarely realised, as a matter of company policy tend to poorly pay local tourism operators for services, charge local businesses a fee for inclusion in ship brochures, seek significant concessions on port fees and cruise ship activity generally tends to depress land-based tourism over time. [See]

As for his suggestion of mooring offshore - there is no sheltered coastline near the mouth of the Clarence River to make disembarking or boarding a cruise ship reliably risk free for passengers.

While characterising community concerns as being "purely environmental", this is a simplistic explanation given a significant Yaegl cultural/spiritual site held under Native Title lies across the entrance to the Clarence River. 
Dirrangun reef showing as a lighter blue crescent in the ocean adjacent to the breakwater walls

Friday, 6 December 2019

When going straight to source documents when doing research applies to critics as well as authors

This article below demonstrates the advisability of going straight to source documents when doing research on a particular subject.

Not what an author 'quoted' or 'attributed' but to the actual extant documents.

Then go to other reliable contemporary accounts from the era in question, before deciding if the modern historian, amatuer historian, journalist, commentator or blogger has accurately conveyed facts.

Something Andrew Bolt appears not to have done.

When it comes to ancestry a good many people do not know the real whens and wheres of their family history, some know part of their family story and a very lucky few can count their line back by name across many generations.

In Australia finding out about your ancestry is as complicated by missing documents, unexplained name changes, unregistered births, unrecorded burials, adoption or removal by the state, divorce and family silences, as anywhere else in the world.

It is not uncommon to only find out some facts about your family once you are an adult.

If Bruce Pascoe says that on doing family research he discovered he has a forebear or forebears who were traditional owners/custodians of land in Australia why would I not take him at his word?

The Saturday Paper, 30 November 2019:

There is one particular question Andrew Bolt does not wish to answer.
In correspondence with The Saturday Paper, the News Corp columnist was asked three times whether he has read Bruce Pascoe’s best-selling history of Aboriginal Australia, Dark Emu. Each time, he evaded the question.
It is useful, then, to start an examination of his attacks on the author with this in mind.
A more inconvenient truth is that Bolt’s dislike of Pascoe began at least two years before the publication of the book, which has now become the focus of a minor culture war led by Bolt and others.
Bolt’s efforts to “fact-check” Pascoe’s book are based largely around a website called Dark Emu Exposed.
The site’s contributors cast doubt on Pascoe’s account of an Indigenous history different from the one allowed by colonial interpretation. They also doubt his Aboriginal heritage.
As one prominent Indigenous leader tells The Saturday Paper, on the condition of anonymity, the argument against Pascoe’s work is an extension of “19th-century race theory”, which once espoused the view that race is the major indicator of a person’s character and behaviour.
“Any suggestion that Aborigines are anything other than furtive rock apes has to be destroyed by these people,” the leader says.

Pascoe’s book is based on close reading of the original journals of Australia’s explorers. In these journals, he has found new evidence of Indigenous agriculture and development. As the Indigenous leader notes: “He’s gone to the records and said, ‘Hang on, what does this really mean?’ While some historians with their PhDs have gone to the same original documents and came to the conclusion that we were all backward.”
In Dark Emu, which has sold more than 100,000 copies, Pascoe mounts a convincing argument that Aboriginal people actively managed and cultivated the landscape, harvested seeds for milling into cakes at an astonishing scale, took part in complex aquaculture and built “towns” of up to 1000 people.
That word, by the way – “town” – is not Pascoe’s. That is how one such settlement was referred to by a man in the exploration party of Thomas Mitchell in the mid-1800s.
What some have found so astonishing about Pascoe’s claimed developments is not that they happened – they are right there in Charles Sturt’s and Mitchell’s journals, among many others – but that we, as a nation, could have been so ignorant to their existence.
As Pascoe wrote last year in Meanjin: “Almost no Australians know anything about the Aboriginal civilisation because our educators, emboldened by historians, politicians and the clergy, have refused to mention it for 230 years.
“Think for a moment about the extent of that fraud. Imagine the excellence of the advocacy required to get our most intelligent people today to believe it.”
It is Pascoe’s attempt to shout down this conspiracy of silence that has primed the culture war machine. But why should a successful race of First Nations peoples be such a threat to modern Australians?
The most compelling answer to this question is that it removes a psychological shunt in the mind of European settlers and their descendants that this occupation, this invasion of land unceded, was to save Indigenous people from themselves, to bring civilisation to them.
Of course, it is uncomfortable to later ask: What if this race of First Australians were civilised all along? Maybe we were the barbarians?
Pascoe achieves this questioning with a somewhat controversial manoeuvre. He takes the European ideal of farming and architecture, and thoroughly white notions of success, and applies them, through the primary evidence, to Indigenous Australians.
Asked why he is offended by Pascoe’s assertion of complex farming and settlements built by First Nations peoples, Bolt said he is not.
“So, to answer your insult: I am not ‘offended’ by the thought of Aborigines being ‘well-adapted’ or ‘sophisticated’. How on earth would that be offensive to me? I in fact am determined to change policies and thinking that hold back so many Aboriginal communities that are now in poverty,” he said in a lengthy correspondence with The Saturday Paper.
“I am simply interested in the truth, and opposed to falsehoods … If I’m ‘offended’ by anything it is frauds......

The agitation surrounding Dark Emu, renewed by the announcement of an ABC documentary, has quickly driven a stake through the recently formed advisory group on the co-design for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The group is chaired by Indigenous academic Marcia Langton, a defender of Pascoe’s, and counts Chris Kenny as a member.
Last week, Ken Wyatt, who established the group as minister for Indigenous Australians, backed Pascoe against the conservative onslaught and noted that Australians tend to “question if you are Indigenous”.
“If Bruce tells me he’s Indigenous, then I know that he’s Indigenous,” Wyatt told Kenny on Sky News.
This week, Wyatt told ABC’s Radio National that his office has been receiving calls where staff have been threatened and called “cunts” because he dared defend Pascoe.
“I’ve had one of my staff resign because she can’t cope with being abused over the issue,” he said.
Another of the co-design group’s members, Indigenous lawyer Josephine Cashman, has publicly questioned Pascoe’s ancestry. On Twitter, she stated that her former partner is a Yuin man who says he has never heard of Pascoe. Other Yuin people responded on Twitter, cautioning Cashman for relying on a single man’s testimony.
A week ago, Kenny wrote in The Australian: “Many claims in Dark Emu have been debunked by forensic reference to primary sources.”
But this week The Saturday Paper spent two days at the National Library of Australia reviewing the original documents and explorer accounts in question. They are – at every instance – quoted verbatim and cited accordingly in an extensive bibliography at the end of Pascoe’s book.
Bolt alleges: “They even overlooked the fact that his big hit – Dark Emu – included incredible misquotations of its sources.
“How else could Pascoe have argued that the historians had been wrong. Aborigines had not been hunter-gatherers but sophisticated farmers, living in ‘towns’ of up to 1000 people, in ‘houses’ with ‘pens’ for animals. (Koalas, perhaps?)”
It would take many thousands of words to address all of Bolt’s claims, but it is useful to highlight a few of them. The Saturday Paper put these claims to Bolt.
For example, he says that Pascoe tells the story of Sturt stumbling onto a town of 1000 people on the edge of the Cooper Creek. Dark Emu does not claim this; it instead quotes Sturt correctly on this front, when his party is taken in by “3 or 400 natives” in the area. Bolt says he was referring to a speech Pascoe made where he said there were 1000 people in the town.
Thomas Mitchell also noted a town of 1000 people in his journals, and the quote is attributed to Mitchell in Dark Emu at the bottom of page 15.
Bolt, when he does reference Mitchell, gets the date of that quotation wrong, too. He says it is from Mitchell’s 1848 journal when, in fact, the quote is from his 1839 journal. This, too, is recorded faithfully in Dark Emu.
Bolt has twice scoffed at the idea of animal yards being found by these explorers.
But Dark Emu records the firsthand account of David Lindsay on his 1883 survey of Arnhem Land, where he says he “came on the site of a large native encampment, quite a quarter of a mile across. Framework of several large humpies, one having been 12ft high: small enclosures as if some small game had been yarded and kept alive … This camp must have contained quite 500 natives.”
In reply, Bolt says: “Maybe they were animal pens, who knows?
“Arnhem Land has, after all, more game than Cooper Creek that might at a stretch be kept in a pen, although it is difficult to imagine what animals might have been kept. Wallabies?”
Again, Bolt says he is not so much quoting from Pascoe’s book as from his lectures, of which the author has done hundreds since Dark Emu’s 2014 release.
However, Bolt frequently conflates the two.
While Bolt mocks Pascoe for speaking at a lecture about a well that was made by Indigenous people and was “70 feet deep”, there are, in fact, a litany of accounts of incredibly sophisticated wells in the journals. Of one, Sturt writes: “… we arrived at a native well of unusual dimensions. It was about eight feet wide at the top and 22ft deep, and it was a work that must have taken the joint strength of a powerful tribe to perform.”
In his rebuttal, the Herald Sun columnist has been forced to accept there were incredibly sophisticated settlements and seed-milling operations, and that Aboriginal people really did give cake and honey and roast ducks to Sturt and his party. The debate has now been reduced to minutiae – questioning how many mills were going and the different depth of various wells.
Bolt responds: “Trust you to attempt to make this about me and not his incredible claims.”
But Pascoe is not alone in his assessments.
Writing in Inside Story this week, Australian National University professor of history Tom Griffiths lauded the book and its addition to a long trajectory of scholarly work.
“My point is that the blindnesses and complacencies that Pascoe rails against are the same silences and lies that Australian historians have been collaboratively challenging for decades now,” he says.
“It’s a job that will never finish. Pascoe is primarily bridling at an older form of history, the history he learnt at school and university 50 years ago.”
Edie Wright, the chair of Magabala Books, which published Dark Emu, told The Saturday Paper: “We unequivocally support our outstanding author Bruce Pascoe, and celebrate the contribution that Dark Emu has made to bringing a fuller understanding of our history to so many Australians of all ages.”
On Wednesday, Marcia Langton replied to Josephine Cashman on Twitter. The two were previously close.
“The critique of Dark Emu is a job for actual historians not Andrew Bolt & others who benefit financially from tearing apart the lives of people looking for family,” she said.
Looking for family has taken on a mournful quality this week, as Pascoe’s kin went to libraries around the country to find the name of their Aboriginal ancestor. But how to proceed, one must ask, when so much of their story and the story of a people has been destroyed to protect the last excuse for colonisation?
Read the full article here.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 30, 2019 as "Bolt, Pascoe and the culture wars". Subscribe to The Saturday Paper here.


The website Dark Emu Exposed appears to be hosted by, was created on 2019-06-01 and registered to Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0154877432 as the creator/owner/administrator of the website apparently wishes to remain anonymous. However Roger Karge is reportedly the person who initiallly floated the idea for the site.

One has to wonder if the website is also the work of aquaintances of Keith Windshuttle, Chris Kenny, Peter O'Brien or even Andrew Bolt himself. 

Monday, 17 June 2019

Australian mainstream media learns another lesson as to why racism is bad policy

BuzzFeed News, 13 June 2019:

Channel Seven has failed in its bid to strike out a lawsuit brought by a group of Aboriginal people who say they were defamed during a now infamous panel discussion on breakfast TV show Sunrise about adopting Indigenous children.
Yolngu woman Kathy Mununggurr and 14 others from the remote community of Yirrkala, including adults and children, are suing the TV network after they were depicted in blurred overlay footage that played during the segment in March 2018.

In the discussion, hosted by Samantha Armytage, commentator Prue Macsween said of the Stolen Generations that “we need to do it again, perhaps”, and then-radio host Ben Davis said Aboriginal kids are getting “abused” and “damaged”.

The comments made by the all-white panel provoked protests outside the Sunrise studio in Sydney's CBD.

Mununggurr and the adults suing argue they were identifiable in the footage and that by playing it during the discussion Sunrise had suggested they abused, assaulted or neglected children, were incapable of protecting their children, and were members of a dysfunctional community.

The children suing say the program defamed them by suggesting they had been raped and assaulted, and were so vulnerable to danger that they should be removed from their families.

The group is also suing for breach of confidence and breach of privacy, as well as misleading and deceptive conduct and unconscionable conduct under the Australian Consumer Law.

The TV network tried to strike out all aspects of the lawsuit in a Federal Court hearing on Wednesday afternoon, but was slapped down by Justice Steven Rares, who said all the issues could and should be argued at trial…..

"This is about an Aboriginal community. They’re all very close. The neighbours know each other, they all know each other," the judge said.

"You’ve got a whole community up there, most of whom will be able to recognise each other, obviously some of whom who watch Sunrise, or whatever the show is called."…...

Rares accepted there was an argument that Davis and the radio station 4BC were being promoted during the segment, but was less convinced when it came to Macsween.

“To me she’s a nobody. I’ve never heard of her and I’ve got no idea what contribution she possibly could have made to the program,” he said.

Nonetheless Rares sided with Catanzariti and declined to strike out the claim.
Seven's attempts to strike out the remaining claims of breach of confidence, breach of privacy and unconscionable conduct were similarly rejected.

Seven was ordered to pay the costs of the hearing.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Gunditjmara: honouring the past and the present

The Guardian, 10 January 2017. Photo Budj Bim

The Guardian, 23 May 2019. Photo Denis Rose

The volanic eruption of Budj Bim (Mt. Eccles) around 30,000 years ago was witnessed by the Gunditjmara people and the subsequent lava flow formed rock over an area 18 kms long & 8 kms wide.

This easily worked, durable rock turned the people into stone masons and around 6,600 years ago allowed them to create one of the world's largest aquaculture systems.

The Guardian, 23 May 2019:

A 6,600-year-old, highly sophisticated aquaculture system developed by the Gunditjmara people will be formally considered for a place on the Unescoworld heritage list and, if successful, would become the first Australian site listed exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural value.

Known as the Budj Bim cultural landscape, the site in south-west Victoria is home to a long dormant volcano, which was the source of the Tyrendarra lava flow.

The Gunditjmara people used the volcanic rock to manage water flows from nearby Lake Condah to exploit eels as a food source, constructing an advanced system of channels and weirs. They manipulated water flows to trap and farm migrating eels and fish for food. It is one of the oldest aquaculture systems in the world.

On Tuesday night in Paris, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world, officially recommended world heritage status for Budj Bim. The nomination will be formally considered by the world heritage committee in the final step in the process in July.

The Budj Bim cultural landscape is largely managed by the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, who also protect the Gunditjmara-owned properties along the lava flow. The project manager and also elder, Denis Rose, said the homes challenge the idea that all Aboriginal people were hunter-gatherers.

“There are around 200 registered and recorded stone house sites, so people were living a sedentary life,” Rose said. “The area had such a reliable water supply from Darlot Creek, and the traditional name for that creek is Killara, which means ‘always there’. It’s a very appropriate name because even during the dry this year, it was still running.”

The Gunditjmara traditional owners have led the process to have Budj Bim added to the world heritage list, and Rose said the recognition would lead to the site being better protected and managed.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Yaegl Aboriginal cultural heritage areas in the Clarence Valley to be mapped

Clarence Valley Council, media release:

Mayor: Jim Simmons LOCKED BAG 23 GRAFTON NSW 2460
General Manager: Ashley Lindsay Telephone: (02) 6643 0200

April 15, 2019

Mapping areas of Yaegl Aboriginal cultural heritage

A PROJECT that aims to help protect areas of cultural value to the Aboriginal community is about to get under way in the Clarence Valley.

Representatives of the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, the Office of Environment and Heritage and Clarence Valley Council recently signed a memorandum of understanding for a cultural mapping project of the Clarence.

The project aims to identify and map known and “high potential” areas of Aboriginal heritage to ensure culturally appropriate information is used to inform conservation and local plans.

The MoU says plans, which include cultural heritage management initiatives, are intended to better protect Aboriginal heritage within or adjacent to all mapped areas.

“Assessment of the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System data and extensive field surveys in company with nominated cultural representatives to validate and record data is also a necessary project component,” it says.

The project aims to produce 1:25,000 scale topographic maps for the Yaegl Native Title Claimed Area, annotated with “known” and “high potential” areas of Aboriginal cultural heritage, within and immediately adjacent to the Clarence Valley local government area.

Once complete, a training program will be developed for Yaegl site officers, Clarence Valley Council staff and other appropriate agencies.

Release ends.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

In which Clarence Valley Council fails to take due consideration of biodiversity & only pays lip service to potential cultural landscape when voting on an inadequately researched council master plan

Wooded area above the dirt road seen in the bottom right-hand corner of this snapshot was that section of land covered by the Clarence Valley Regional Airport Master Plan which figured prominately in councillors' debate.

When the regular monthly meeting of predominately white, middle-aged male, elected councillors in a NSW local government area again deliberately choose to have the meeting opened with a prayer
* by yet another 'ordained' representative of one of the Protestant religious institutions named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it can only go downhill from there - and it did.

Predictably Cr. Williamson sought to close down debate at the earliest opportunity with regard to any alternative approach to planning issues surrounding adoption of a master plan on council-owned operational land.

Just as predictably Cr. Baker displayed a level of ignorance concerning everything from how far a 10 km radius surrounding airport land actually stretched (seems he believed it went as far as est. 25kms southeast to Wooli beach) through to the professional conduct of accredited ecologists and motives behind their reports ( a subject on which he sounded more than a little paranoid).

However, the incident that would have had regular council watchers sitting up in their seats occurred when the council general manager rather aggressively inserted himself into the debate uninvited and without permission, by directing a question to an elected councillor. 

Which immediately raised the question - has he caught a bad case of the dreaded Greensill-itis and if so can it be cured?

The Daily Examiner, 28 May 2019, p.1:

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons has apologised for a procedural error which led to a councillor walking out of the chamber during a heated debate.

At Tuesday’s Clarence Valley Council meeting Cr Greg Clancy accused the council of gagging debate on a proposed Master Plan for the Grafton Regional Airport, before departing from the chamber without seeking leave.

Cr Clancy had moved a motion calling for environmental reports and information about Aboriginal heritage in the area to be included in the plan, which sparked a fierce argument among the councillors.

After about an hour of questions and debate Cr Richie Williamson, moved the motion be put, but this sparked an outbreak of interjections.

“What, are we being gagged right down the line?” interjected Cr Peter Ellem.

Mayor Jim Simmons adjourned the meeting for 10 minutes to seek advice on the matter.

“When the meeting resumed Cr Clancy came in to gather some things and I did apologise to him at the time, but he didn’t stay.”

Cr Simmons said he didn’t think council would act on some strong language Cr Clancy used at the time.

“Greg is a very strong advocate for the environment and I can understand he was disappointed how things were going,” he said.

“I’m very disappointed how things panned out and other than some language about gagging debate, I can’t really recall what was said.”

Cr Simmons blamed himself for the mistaken ruling, which inflamed the situation.
“What I said didn’t help the situation and I take full responsibility for that,” he said.

He said the council code of meeting practice required councillors to seek permission to leave the chamber early, which Cr Clancy did not do, but he did not think councillors would seek to take this further.

“In my view it would have been better for Greg to stay in the chamber,” he said.

“Councillors voted against his motion, 5-3 I think from memory, so it was a close thing.”

Cr Simmons said the meeting did approve the plan on a motion from Cr Ellem, which called for involvement of the Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council in any development planning for the site.

Clarence Valley Council posted the 26 March 2019 podcast of this meeting on its website where it will remain for twelve months and, at approx. 2hrs 4 mins into the podcast the debate of Item 15.031/19 can be heard - but don't expect to hear the entire debate.

Because it appears that at a vital moment in his response to being improperly gagged by the mayor Cr. Clancy did not have his microphone turned on.

I have been given to understand that one of his observations was words to the effect that democracy is dead in the Clarence Valley.

An observation that in my opinion is frequently applicable to both local and state governments.

* It should be noted that Cr. Clancy did not agree with a 2017 change to Clarence Valley Council's Code of Meeting Practice which formally established an opening prayer as well as a rota of ordained Protestant ministers praying over the elected councillors and members of the vistors' gallery at the start of each ordinary monthly meeting.

Friday, 18 January 2019

As the land grows hotter and drier, the storms and fires more violent, as we watch the rampant greed of the few decimate our forests and destroy our water sources......

..... there is some comfort in knowing that there are still some Australian communities trying to come together to care for country.

North East Forest Alliance, media release, 30 August 2018:

Githabul Tribe and Conservation Groups Reach Historic Agreement

The Githabul Tribe, Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Githabul Elders and representatives of conservation groups today launched their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the management of Githabul Native Title Lands in the upper Clarence and Richmond Rivers.

On 29 November 2007 the Federal Court of Australia made a consent determination recognising the Githabul People’s Native Title rights and interests over 1120 sq km in 9 National Parks and 13 State Forests.

The MoU proposes:

·       Transferring care and control of 29,700ha State Forests for which Githabul Native Title rights are recognised, from the NSW government to the Githabul Tribe.
·       Preparing a comprehensive Plan of Management to safeguard conservation and cultural values and prioritise rehabilitation works.
·       Achieving an adequately funded comprehensive 15 year rehabilitation plan to arrest and repair forest dieback as part of a Githabul caring for country program.
·       Creating more NPWS positions and training for Githabul Working on Country in National Parks in the Kyogle area.
·       Transferring the care and control of Crown lands around the Tooloom Falls Aboriginal Place to the Githabul Tribe.
·       Promoting the establishment of a Cultural and Tourism Centre at Roseberry Creek.
·       Obtaining World Heritage Listing for the National Parks in the region.

30 August 2018

Githabul spokesperson Rob Williams said:

It is important to understand and acknowledge that the health of the Githabul people in general is directly related to the health of the surrounding country and vice versa.

This philosophy underpins the Githabul wish to immediately arrest what is seen as a decline in the health of the forests and waterways over many decades now.

Such is our connection to country that we all suffer - along with the plants and animals. We still feel we have a direct responsibility to maintain the natural balance between all inter- related species including ourselves, as was done for millennia before the colonial invasion.

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said:

The Forestry Corporation has already abandoned 11,000 hectares of these State Forests for timber production because of the chronic dieback they are suffering from past logging, and the balance of the Githabul lands are in an equally parlous state.

Already the Government is proposing that 5,600 ha of State Forests around Mount Lindesay be transferred to the management of NPWS as a Koala reserve, but without the massive funding needed to rehabilitate the forests.

The Githabul have a proven track-record in rehabilitating dieback areas and we are excited by the prospect of supporting their native title rights while helping to obtain the funding needed to scale up their rehabilitation works to stop the ongoing degradation and begin to restore the health of these internationally significant forests.

National Parks Association CEO Alix Goodwin said:

NPA is committed to protecting NSW public native forests for their biodiversity conservation values for future generations. Working with the Githabul to rehabilitate and restore almost 30,000 hectares on the north coast is a great start to achieving this vision.

The MOU also marks an important milestone in achieving the protection of important koala habitat in the Western Border Ranges, the connection of seven existing World Heritage properties and a recognised biodiversity hotspot under the stewardship of the local Aboriginal community.

We look forward to working with the Githabul to implement this MOU, the first NPA agreement with an Aboriginal community in over a decade.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolksi said:

We believe that effective nature conservation and land justice for Indigenous Australians go hand in hand.

We welcome today’s announcement and hope this proves to be a successful model that can be adopted in other areas.

The MoU is an agreement between the Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation and Githabul Elders, and the North East Forest Alliance, North Coast Environment Council, National Parks Association, Nature Conservation Council, Nimbin Environment Centre, Lismore Environment Centre and Casino Environment Centre.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Aboriginal Australia discovered the variability of a bright red supergiant star in the shoulder of Orion millennia before Western science did

Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 21(1), 7‒12 (2018), Bradley E. Schaefer Department of Physics and Astronomy, Louisiana State University, “YES, ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS CAN AND DID DISCOVER THE VARIABILITY OF BETELGEUSE”:

Abstract: Recently, a widely publicized claim has been made that the Aboriginal Australians discovered the variability of the red star Betelgeuse in the modern Orion, plus the variability of two other prominent red stars: Aldebaran and Antares. This result has excited the usual healthy skepticism, with questions about whether any untrained peoples can discover the variability and whether such a discovery is likely to be placed into lore and transmitted for long periods of time. Here, I am offering an independent evaluation, based on broad experience with naked-eye sky viewing and astro-history. I find that it is easy for inexperienced observers to detect the variability of Betelgeuse over its range in brightness from V = 0.0 to V = 1.3, for example in noticing from season-to-season that the star varies from significantly brighter than Procyon to being greatly fainter than Procyon. Further, indigenous peoples in the Southern Hemisphere inevitably kept watch on the prominent red star, so it is inevitable that the variability of Betelgeuse was discovered many times over during the last 65 millennia. The processes of placing this discovery into a cultural context (in this case, put into morality stories) and the faithful transmission for many millennia is confidently known for the Aboriginal Australians in particular. So this shows that the whole claim for a changing Betelgeuse in the Aboriginal Australian lore is both plausible and likely. Given that the discovery and transmission is easily possible, the real proof is that the Aboriginal lore gives an unambiguous statement that these stars do indeed vary in brightness, as collected by many ethnographers over a century ago from many Aboriginal groups. So I strongly conclude that the Aboriginal Australians could and did discover the variability of Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, and Antares.
Keywords: Aboriginal astronomy, variable stars: Betelgeuse, Antares, Aldebaran

Original paper by Duane W. Hamacher, Monash Indigenous Studies Centre, Monash University,  “Observations of red–giant variable stars by Aboriginal Australians” at

Both papers are well worth a read by everyone who has ever looked up at the night skies in wonder.