Searching for the in-between: Developing Indigenous holistic approaches to cultural heritage assessment and interpretation


Writing about heritage values is tricky business where Aboriginal cultural heritage is concerned. How might Aboriginal worldviews, cosmologies and epistemologies be incorporated into a discussion and assessment of heritage values that have been defined and codified according to standards originating from the need to protect mostly European built heritage? In this paper, Sarah Yu revisits her cultural heritage work with the Yawuru native title holders of the area of country in and around Broome, Western Australia, to consider and challenge static notions of heritage (for example, as articulated in the Burra Charter) that relegate heritage into artificial dichotomies such as natural/cultural, or tangible /intangible, or scientific/Aboriginal. Her approach is developed from Yawuru perspectives and worldviews that are holistic, founded in the Bugarrigarra (the Dreaming) and which acknowledge the traditional knowledge, rights and cultural responsibilities that people have in relation to looking after their country as a whole, rather than as separated values, as well as shared transcultural values that have emerged from the colonial history of the region. Yu draws from her recent heritage work in cultural management planning (Yawuru Cultural Management Plan) as well as the curation of a heritage trail (Jetty to Jetty Trail) and an exhibition about pearling in Australia (Lustre: Pearling & Australia). Applying interpretive skills and thematic approaches, Yu posits an holistic way for assessing heritage values that incorporates the relationships between people and the subject (not object) of value, and the broader country or context of that value. She argues for an holistic approach that looks beyond separated values, and encompasses the ‘in-between’ relationships of people with the subject (not object) of value. Recognising relationships as a value, Yu argues, is an inclusive way to reimagining and assessing our heritage and reconciles differing worldviews

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