Statues or statutes? Indigenous heritage, Black Lives Matter and the ‘Rio TNTto’ effect in Australia - Professor Ian Lilley

14 October 2020, 1.00 PM - 14 October 2020, 3.00 PM

Professor Ian Lilley, University of Queensland


Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests, recent events steered public discussion in Australia away from criticism of historical statues like that occurring around the world – including so dramatically in Bristol – and towards Australian heritage statutes which facilitate the destruction of Indigenous heritage in the interests of mining. Outrage about all three matters – statues, statutes and Indigenous deaths at the hands of the authorities – is not new in Australia.

Yet the destruction by “Rio TNT” of Pleistocene sites in Western Australia (also nothing new) focused attention on links between Indigenous wellbeing and the preservation of Indigenous heritage (and especially archaeological heritage) in a way that decades of scholarship and activism has never achieved.

I suggest this occurred by chance, because this time the destruction coincided with a global surge in Black Lives Matter protests rather than domestic demonstrations against Aboriginal deaths in custody which have little if any international profile. This seminar discusses the factors that gave rise to this situation, what is happening now as it continues to play out, and what it means for archaeologists and heritage practitioners keen to preserve archaeological and other heritage while working ethically with Indigenous communities.

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