In 2016 for the first time, indigenous cultural heritage sites in the Mackay-Whitsundays region were assessed for their value, importance, and condition, for inclusion in the 2015 Report Card.

Logo of the Traditional Owner Reference Group.The Partnership engaged external consultants Terra Rosa to facilitate the development of an indigenous cultural heritage assessment framework in collaboration with the Mackay-Whitsunday Traditional Owner Reference Group (TORG). The TORG includes representatives of the Gia, Ngaro, Juru, Yuwibara, Koinmerburra, and Barada/Wiri Traditional Owners.

The TORG identified some key culturally significant sites related to waterways and the marine environment that would be suitable for assessment in May 2016. Over the course of a week, the TORG, Terra Rosa, and Reef Catchments/Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership staff undertook site assessments in the St Helens zone, Cape Hillsborough zone, and Whitsunday, Hook and South Molle Islands zones. In total, 21 sites were assessed across the three zones and included shell middens, rock shelters, fish traps, quarries, and paintings.

Spiritual/social value: This indicator is measured with Traditional Owner consultation and relates to knowledge of the sites within the zone, the sense of connection with those sites, and the regularity of visitation to the zone/sites.

Scientific value: This indicator relates to the number and diversity of sites within a zone, how well the sites represent traditional land use of the zone, how unique the identified sites are, and whether artefacts are in situ (i.e. have they been disturbed or moved historically).

Physical condition: This indicator is perhaps the most obvious indication of site condition and relates to ground disturbance and the impact of that disturbance on a site’s heritage values. It also includes the presence of threats such as erosion, trampling by animals, and human interaction (e.g. pathways/trampling)

Protection of sites: This indicator relates to the physical protection of sites within a zone to mitigate threats and includes registration of sites on applicable heritage registers, management of threats to sites within a zone, and control of access to sites (e.g. by boardwalks, fencing etc).

Cultural maintenance: This indicator is designed to reflect the reality of cultural health in zones being managed by Traditional Owners and includes further research of sites, development of additional physical and digital cultural resources, and engaging with stakeholders to fulfil cultural heritage aims.

St Helens zone overall scored an E (very poor).

Cape Hillsborough zone overall scored a C (moderate).

The Whitsunday, Hook, and South Molle Island zone overall scored a B (good).

To find out more about the sites, methodologies, and/or scoring, you can download an Executive Summary of the project.

The TORG will continue to have an active role in the Report Card’s Indigenous cultural heritage assessments including, in future years, identifying additional culturally significant sites related to the region’s waterways and marine environments, and undertaking field work to assess those sites.

The Partnership intends to build on the baseline work undertaken this year to include:

  • Re-assessing the sites at St Helens, Cape Hillsborough, and the Whitsunday, Hook, and South Molle Islands to see if anything has changed
  • Identifying additional indigenous cultural heritage sites of importance and including them in our assessments
  • Developing a European cultural heritage assessment framework for the region to include key sites such as shipwrecks and lighthouses

For more information please contact the Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership