NAIDOC Week is about the celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Each year there is a meaningful and thought evoking theme.
This year the theme is ‘Heal Country!’, which has made me reflect on quite a few things.
Australia is often described as the ‘Lucky Country'.
This is because - by pure dumb luck - Australia is rich in minerals. And indeed, it was through dumb luck that Lang Hancock discovered the world's biggest deposit of iron ore while flying over the Pilbara region in 1952.
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A lucky country indeed.
Only, it isn't very lucky for the traditional owners of the land, when sacred sites are destroyed in order to profit from these minerals.
In 2020, a large mining company in WA blasted the Juukan Gorge Cave which had a 4,000-year-old genetic link and 46,000 years of continual occupation by the traditional owners, all for more iron ore.
What a lucky country we are.
In the past week, there has been news that the same mining company dumped priceless Aboriginal artefacts in the 1990s that were estimated to be around 18,000 years old, with traditional owners only learning of this some 25 years later.
Where is the consultation of the traditional owners? Who is the person determining the value of these sacred places? And how is our government allowing this?
Meanwhile, as Aboriginal sacred sites are destroyed, let’s see what is deemed a national treasure in Australia:
There is Gus’ Café in Canberra, which apparently pioneered outdoor dining culture in the 1970s - it is safely heritage-listed.
Built in 1937, a McDonald's in Clifton Hill, Victoria, is described as: "A most exquisite and intact example of jazz modern architecture." Safely heritage-listed.
Then there is the oldest surviving underground toilet in Darlinghurst NSW - again, heritage-listed.
There are even bus shelters that have been heritage-listed - one is in Northern Sydney.
Oh, and let's not forget the electricity substation in Hurlstone Park NSW.
I’m going to take a leap here and say that Juukan Gorge Cave was more culturally significant than Gus’ Café.
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