Aboriginal cultural heritage protection, and the legislative regimes that underpin it, constitute important mechanisms for Aboriginal people to assert their rights and responsibilities. This is especially so in Victoria, where legislation vests wide-ranging powers and control of cultural heritage with Aboriginal communities. However, the politics of cultural heritage, including its institutionalisation as a scientific body of knowledge within the state, can also result in a powerful limiting of Aboriginal rights and responsibilities. This paper examines the politics of cultural heritage through a case study of a small forest in north-west Victoria. Here, a dispute about logging has pivoted around differing conceptualisations of Aboriginal cultural heritage values and their management. Cultural heritage, in this case, is both a powerful tool for the assertion of Aboriginal rights and interests, but simultaneously a set of boundaries within which the state operates to limit and manage the challenge those assertions pose. The paper will argue that Aboriginal cultural heritage is a politically contested and shifting domain structured around Aboriginal law and politics, Australian statute and the legacy of colonial history
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