Whose Country? Native Title and Authenticity in Rock Art Research

Perspectives on Differences in Rock Art - Jan Magne Gjerde

Leslie F. Zubieta [+-]
University of Barcelona
Leslie F Zubieta is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (PostDoc) in the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Barcelona. She is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia and at the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She acted as the Project Leader of the Port Hedland Rock Art Conservation Project. Her current research focuses on exploring rock art relationships to the transmission of knowledge, memory, acoustics and identity.
Jo McDonald [+-]
University of Western Australia
Jo McDonald is the Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia and holds the Rio Tinto Chair of Rock Art. Her PhD research in the Sydney Basin contextualized rock art production of engraving and pigment sites the sandstone country of the Sydney Bsain. She has studied the rock art of the Western Desert and Dampier Archipelago (Murujuga) for the last two decades, completing an ARC Future Fellowship focused on arid zone rock art in Australia and the USA. Jo has recently been the Lead Chief Investigator (CI) for the Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming ARC Linkage Project, and is a CI on the Deep History of Sea Country ARC Project. She is currently working on rock art dating across the arid zone, and is developing a project with Aboriginal communities from the Western Desert and Pilbara coast on inter-generational and cross-cultural knowledge exchange.


Aboriginal peoples’ connection to their ancestral homelands is recognised by Federal Law through a legal process known as ‘Native Title’. The first successful Native Title claim in the 1990s invalidated the dogma of terra nullius - that Australia was an empty land before European colonisation. Despite the positive consequences resulting from this recognition, the legal and regulatory processes still pose many challenges for native title holders, contemporary Aboriginal communities and researchers working with Aboriginal knowledge holders. Maintaining authenticity, for both communities and the rock art sites for which they are custodians, in the post-native title era is highly complex. This paper discusses some of these issues in northwest Australia based on our experiences during the development of a conservation management plan for the Port Hedland rock engraving sites.

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Zubieta, Leslie; McDonald, Jo. Whose Country? Native Title and Authenticity in Rock Art Research. Perspectives on Differences in Rock Art. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Nov 2020. ISBN 9781781795606. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=31930. Date accessed: 22 Oct 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.31930. Nov 2020

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