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The interpretation of Australian heritage sites : Kakadu and Port Arthur

Opitz, Judy (2008). The interpretation of Australian heritage sites : Kakadu and Port Arthur. PhD Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

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Author Opitz, Judy
Title The interpretation of Australian heritage sites : Kakadu and Port Arthur
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2008
Thesis Type PhD
Subjects 2103 - Historical Studies
Abstract This thesis studies the presentation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous archaeological/heritage sites in Australia, exploring the ideology and management practices behind their presentation. The aim of the thesis is to critically examine, by means of comparison, the proposition that there may be discordance in the public understanding of the material fabric of Indigenous and settler sites in Australia.

Two sites are used as case studies: Port Arthur Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania, and Anbangbang Rockshelter situated in Nourlangie Rock in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. These sites were specifically chosen for the dissimilarity in the approach taken to their presentation, a presentation which hinges on the culturally based management of the site.

Port Arthur Historic Site is a well preserved penal colony which acts as a reminder of Australia’s history from the time of European colonisation of Van Diemen’s Land in the early nineteenth century. The changing nature of the interpretation of the Historic Site as a tourist venture, ranging from the cessation of transportation to present times, is considered in conjunction with the extent to which the social moods and memories of the so-called “hated stain” have dictated past styles of presentation.

Anbangbang Rockshelter dates back some 20,000 years and contains an extensive gallery of rock art. Although the site has been archaeologically excavated with stone artefacts indicating the prehistoric use of the shelter, this aspect is minimised for public presentation.

The unifying theme running through the thesis is the exploration of the culturallybased reasons for the disparate presentations of the two sites and their changes over time. In the case of the Indigenous site, it particularly looks at whether the constrained style of presentation precludes or enhances a deeper understanding of the Aboriginal heritage.

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