Aboriginal Cultural Heritage on Farmlands: The Perceptions of Farmers of the Tatiara District of South Australia




Toone, Gary Robert

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The management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in intensively settled and farmed regions of Australia faces legal and ethical challenges. This study examines how fifteen farmers from the Tatiara District of South Australia perceive Aboriginal Cultural Resources (ACR) and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (ACH) on their freehold farmland. Drawing on the concept of cultural heritage as a cultural process, the thesis employs an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) methodology to interpret the findings of detailed interviews which explored the perspectives of farmer stakeholders and the way ACR and ACH is managed in farming contexts. Previous research on Aboriginal heritage has focused on the interests and perspectives of Aboriginal, professional and government stakeholders. However, in terms of effective management of ACR and ACH in farming landscapes, a pivotal ‘first step’ is understanding the points of view of the farmers on whose land the ACR resides: how Aboriginal heritage fits within the ‘lived life’ of agriculture; what farmers know of South Australian Aboriginal cultural heritage protection legislation and administration; and how they understand the protection of ACR and ACH on their farms. This thesis finds that, despite uncertain understandings of cultural heritage, Tatiara farmers have a positive attitude toward protecting and preserving ACR. However, a marginalisation of farmers in Aboriginal heritage management leaves them feeling ignorant, incompetent, vulnerable and reluctant to engage and deal with Aboriginal issues. These findings highlight the significance of including all stakeholders in cultural heritage management regimes and of facilitating dialogue between farmers and those Aboriginal communities for whom the cultural resources on farms have the potential to become heritage. Stakeholder cooperation and collaboration is particularly necessary in circumstances where cultural resources are divorced from cultural knowledge, control and ownership. The results of this study suggest that efficacious Aboriginal heritage management in cross-cultural situations rests on an investment in the capacity of non-Aboriginal stakeholders to engage with Aboriginal cultures and heritage, and for Aboriginal people to engage with ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ ACR with the potential to become ACH. The conclusion of this study is that worthwhile Aboriginal heritage management will likely emanate from mutual respectful, trusting relationships, developed in local ethical spaces supporting stakeholder cross-cultural communication, negotiation and collaboration.



Cultural heritage, Aboriginal cultural heritage, Aboriginal cultural resources, Aboriginal heritage management, cross-cultural heritage management, Heritage conservation, Farm management, South Australia, Tatiara




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