Visions for the future of Aboriginal Heritage in Western Australia

The Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists (AACAI), the Anthropological Society of  Western Australia (ASWA) and Australia ICOMOS are hosting a one-day forum on ‘Visions for the future of Aboriginal Heritage in Western Australia’.

Date: Friday 16 October 2020
Time: 8am to 5pm (drinks and canapes afterwards until 7.30pm)
Venue: Esplanade Hotel, 46-54 Marine Terrace, Fremantle, Western Australia

Get tickets

Travel subsidies for First Australians based outside of Perth to partially offset the cost of getting to Fremantle are being offered. Amounts will vary depending on distance travelled and the total number of applicants. Travel subsidies can be requested through the Humanitix registration page. If you know of anyone who wants to take up this option, please contact JJ McDermott by email or phone 0458 608 786 for assistance with the booking.

If you are unable to attend the Forum in person but are still interested in participating, please please contact JJ McDermott by email or phone 0458 608 786 before Friday 18 September. We are looking into arranging a potential live streaming option over the Zoom platform and need to get numbers as soon as possible.

Smithsonian | National Conference on Cultural Property Protection (NCCPP)

Save the date September 22-23, 2020, 10am-3pm EST | 7am-12pm PST

Hosted by the National Conference on Cultural Property Protection (NCCPP)

This year the NCCPP will focus on current events and include sessions on Museums’ Response to COVID-19, Reopening Strategies, Protests at Museums, and Disaster Preparedness.

More information is available on the NCCPP website.

Or you can skip straight to the webinar registration form here.

Blue Shield International Updates – August 2020

With disasters occurring all around the world, Blue Shield International continues to support those most in need in the cultural sectors.

Karl Habsburg, President of the Blue Shield, has visited Beirut to support the work of Blue Shield Lebanon, the Directorate General of Antiquities and other partners in securing the museums, libraries, and historic buildings affected by the catastrophic explosion on Tuesday 4 August 2020. Blue Shield International is working hard to provide support for those working in the heritage sector, which has been deeply affected by the crisis. Blue Shield Lebanon and partners have been working round the clock to compile a preliminary assessment of the damage.

Flooding in Yemen during July and August 2020 is also causing significant damage to cultural sites and loss of life.

Further updates can be found on the Blue Shield International Website, Twitter and Facebook.  Follow these accounts for up-to-date news when it is available.

PRESS RELEASE 05/06/2020 – Destruction of culturally significant Juukan Gorge rockshelters, Pilbara region, Western Australia

T.L. Park
Southern Cross University and Blue Shield Australia,
S. Hutley
Chair, Blue Shield Australia,

Recently 46,000 year old sites of high cultural significance have been destroyed by mining detonations.  Rio Tinto was legally permitted to destroy the culturally significant sites under a Section 18 Notice of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, with a permit issued in 2013. Seven years later the mining company has destroyed significant artefacts including early evidence of grinding and bone technology and plaited hair approximately 4000 years old that has been linked by DNA to the contemporary Puutu Kunti Kurrama & Pinikura Traditional Owners.

Some 350 km north of this site is the Burrup Peninsula, with rock art which is amongst the most ancient rock art in the world. The  peninsula and surrounding Dampier Archipelago also hold the highest concentration of rock art in the world. “…petroglyphs, include depictions of human life figures, human faces and animals that no longer inhabited the region, including the Tasmanian tiger”1

In January 2020, a submission was made to UNESCO to secure World Heritage Status for this region as Australia’s largest collection of rock art. If the submission is accepted it will reside on the tentative list for at least 12 months before the listing is formalised, due to a number of considerations that will be taken into account, such as outstanding universal value [OUV] of site, heritage management and including consultation with traditional owners [Murujuga]. The Burrup Peninsula is known to be a site of major industrial development and there are very real concerns that industrial emissions could adversely affect the stability and longevity of the rock art.

A number of academic studies have taken place around the protection of the significance of the rock art, one such study took place in 2013 pertaining to the natural processes and rates of weathering, erosion, including the effects of fire, that affect the stability of rock surfaces and subsequently the longevity of the rock art. Cosmogenic nuclides (or cosmogenic isotopes) were studied, and it was concluded that these rare nuclides demonstrate amongst the lowest erosion rates (at least measured by cosmogenic nuclides) anywhere in the world.  Thus low erosion rates, together with low rainfall, have favoured long-term preservation of petroglyphs, long enough to encompass the known period of human settlement in Australia.3

In 2013, after the mining company was granted mining rights in the region, archaeologists subsequently provided ‘evidence’ of the sites cultural significance via artifacts belonging to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura traditional owners, including a 28,000 year old tool fashioned from bone and a piece of 4000 year old plaited hair belt.  Traditional owners visited sites, in line with best practice in cultural management procedure, alongside international exemplar for heritage management, highlighting the importance of ethical partnerships with Traditional Owners and communities. The importance and significance of the site was indisputable, both from a local and international perspective.   Once the significance of the place had been established there was no process under the Act, or within the administration of the Act, that could alter the terms of the section 18 permit.  Under the AHA, no parties other than the Land Owner can appeal a section 18 decision. So, the Traditional Owners had no right of appeal after the section 18 was granted, despite having found new and compelling evidence about the significance of the site.

Legal Framework for management and protection lies within the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), where, within the act it is an offence to negatively impact an area that has national heritage listing. A great number of ancient Aboriginal sites are not listed as national heritage, and if federal legislation is not applicable, State laws apply.   The Juukan Rockshelters were not listed on the National Heritage List, so EPBC doesn’t apply. The rock shelters in the Pilbara were protected under Western Australia’s Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1972. The Traditional Owners are the Puutu Kunti Kurrama & Pinikura people and the legal tenement owners are Rio Tinto Iron Ore.4 So, under the S18 process, only Rio Tinto would be allowed to appeal against a decision.  The fifty year old act is currently being reviewed by the State Government, hopefully addressing the blatant omission of the opportunity of the reform of a decision once new information has emerged. Without legal protection cultural property is at risk as economic interests are at the forefront.

Instead of the circular debates in which the outcry of protection of cultural property comes at the cost of economic progress, Australia’s place within a global context will need to at least be acknowledged. “Global mining giant Rio Tinto is set to contribute 10m to support Covid-19 community initiatives in the US and Canada. The funding will be used to support deprived families and supply critical equipment to frontline works…”4  Australia no longer exists in economic isolation, we are on the international stage both economically and culturally, the destruction of irreplaceable cultural property is highly emotional, and deeply saddening. We all have to do better and find a way forward.  It is of no use to throw up our arms in despair, blanket blame, there must be open and honest conversations, difficult conversations.

  1. Dineley, J., Australian Geographic, November 7, 2013
  2. Brad Pillans and Keith Fifield, Science Direct Journal.
    Volume 69, 1 June 2013, Pages 98-106.
  3. Jo Thomson, University of Western Australia, personal communication, 2020
  4. Mining Technology, News, 5 May 2020,

ATTACHMENTS: BSA_Press-Release_June-2020.pdf

Closed by COVID-19 – Checklist for GLAMs and Historical and Heritage Sites

Updated :  29 April 2020

Closed by COVID-19 – version 1.2 – 29Apr2020   Word Version

Closed by COVID-19 – version 1.2 – 29Apr2020  PDF Version

Blue Shield Australia and AICCM are pleased to release this Guide [now available as Version 1.2 as above] which has been produced to provide guidance for people who are responsible for closing collections of movable cultural heritage in collecting organisations such as archives, galleries, herbaria, historical societies, libraries and museums and at heritage sites. Whether working as volunteers or as paid staff, the aim is to preserve the collection for the long term, by achieving high standards in management of the collection and its environment. In uncertain times where things are happening so quickly, we hope that this guide and checklist will be useful.

AICCM Covid-19 Information and Links, including Disinfecting and Cleaning guides.

With thanks and acknowledgement to Mary Reid, Sarah Brown, Veronica Bullock and Margaret Birtley and with the support of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM).

Closed by COVID-19? – A Practice Guide for Managers V1.1   – note new version above
PDF Version – Closed by COVID19 – ver 1.1 – 27Mar2020
DOC Version – Closed by COVID19 – ver 1.1 – 27Mar2020 

May Day Webinar : Information Awareness Month 2020 Launch


Information Awareness Month 2020 Launch Webinar
Date: 1st May 2020
Time: 11:00 AEST                  COST :  Free

David Fricker, Director General, National Archives of Australia
Elizabeth Tydd, NSW Information Commissioner
Kathryn Dan, Committee Member, Blue Shield Australia
Tim Graham, Senior Lecturer (Digital Media), Queensland University of Technology

This webinar will focus on the importance of the right information, how information can be derived, distributed, used (and misused) in critical situations (such as natural disaster, terror-attack, disease outbreak and similar) and what have we learned from the recent experiences.

May Day Webinar: Caring for Collections during Covid Closure

This May Day, 1 May 2020, join AMaGA Victoria, Grimwade Conservation Services and Margaret Birtley AM, for a webinar on how to best care for collections with limited access. This session will explore and expand on the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material’s (AICCM) valuable ‘Closed by COVID’ resource. The Grimwade team will share practical advice and respond to questions about caring for specific materials at a distance. Our panellists will also look to the coming months and discuss returning to work, preparing for reopening and the ongoing ramifications of COVID-19 on collection care. 

2:00pm – 3.00pm Friday, 1 May 2020  AEST (VIC, NSW, QLD, ACT, TAS)

COST:  AMaGA Members: $20.00
BlueShield Australia member Associations –  AICCM, AICOMOS, ALIA, FAHS, PARBICA, and ASA members: AU$30.00 [ Create an account, and use the code MAYDAYWEBINAR at checkout / at the payment Cart]
Non-Members: $40.00

Impact of Fire and Storm Events on GLAM Institutions 2020

During 2019 and 2020 Blue Shield Australia joined with GLAM Peak and other creative industry peak bodies as part of a Roundtable, to provide advocacy, communication and support through the Australian disaster season on behalf of the cultural sector, GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) and the creative arts sectors.
Over the summer of 2019-2020, Australia experienced unprecedented bushfires, causing smoke-filled air, dust and ash, and extreme weather – high temperatures, strong winds, heavy rainfall with threats of flooding, as well as golf-ball sized hail.
Blue Shield Australia conducted a survey on behalf of the Roundtable during March and April 2020. Members of the Roundtable wanted to determine the impact of these extreme weather events on small and large organisations and to discover what assistance could be provided in the immediate aftermath of the events as well as in the months following.

We understand that many other GLAMs and heritage sites were affected (as summarised by our BSA News posts during January and February), and we also acknowledge the impact of Covid19 on organisations completing surveys at this time.   The survey report summarises the responses from the 32 respondents, it does give an insight into the impact on cultural heritage institutions from these events.

Blue Shield Australia acknowledges Sue McKerracher, CEO of ALIA, Alex Marsden, National Director of AMaGA and Natalie Fisher, Director, NSF Consulting for their work in co-ordinating the survey and writing and editing the survey report.

Survey Report: [pdf] Impact of Fire and Storm Events on GLAM Institutions in Australia 2020

Covid19 Supplies and GLAMs

As you may have read in the news, as a result of COVID-19, Australian Departments of Health are experiencing shortages of necessary protection equipment including masks and gloves for medical use.

While a number of GLAM institutions have small supplies of gloves, our national and state cultural institutions are currently liaising with their relevant Department to organise the transfer of these items.

This direct ‘institution-to-government’ response ensures swift collaboration which will be more efficient and effective than asking individual GLAM organisations to send supplies to a central point, with all the additional co-ordination and logistical issues which would then arise.

If the situation changes, we will put out a general call for supplies, but at this time we can concentrate on individual institutions’ responses to COVID-19 efforts.

Blue Shield Australia is working on a range of information and links for cultural heritage institutions at this time. Our Resources page will also be updated with relevant links.

Email Blue Shield Australia at