Managing the past - for a better future

A new era for Aboriginal cultural heritage management in Victoria and boost for Indigenous education opportunity ….

Group photo Managing the pastThese are the twin objectives of a new course developed by Aboriginal Affairs Victoria in partnership with La Trobe University and close consultation with Indigenous organisations and land management agencies.

With an inaugural intake of eighteen Indigenous students from throughout the state, the course was launched late last week by the Executive Director, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, Mr Ian Hamm.

He said the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management course offers training in archaeological and industry skills. It is the first customised and accredited higher certificate qualification of its kind in Australia.

Speaking at Bunjilaka, Melbourne Museum, Mr Hamm described it as a ‘highly significant development’ of which both his Department and the Minister, Richard Wynne, were proud.

‘It is not just about cultural heritage management, but provides important opportunities for our people by giving them the skills and capabilities to manage land in the wider community. While we have a special connection with the land, the technical skills have to be learnt.’

In addition, Mr Hamm said, the course also opens doors for land management in other areas.

‘We want to see Aboriginal people involved in all aspects of land management, and this course will hopefully help us achieve this.

‘We also want to create more opportunities for our people; to study, learn, and go on to university to do bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees to open wider the doors for further education.’

Returning to the specifics of the course, Mr Hamm said cultural heritage management required local knowledge. ‘The program has been designed for Victoria, to meet our needs and those of our children about the country we are living in. But it has been put together in such a way that in can also be adapted for other states.’

Students spend the first week on the University’s main Melbourne campus at Bundoora and eight weeks at other campuses and venues in Victoria.

Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor of Archaeology Tim Murray said the University was proud to be associated with this ‘fantastic first intake of students.’

‘Much has been said by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard about increasing the numbers of Indigenous people in higher education.

‘La Trobe University has spent a lot of time and effort in working out pathways to help achieve that goal – and this course is a shining example of putting those principles in to action.

‘As the first intake of students you bring your own special knowledge to bear on this course.’ Professor Murray said. ‘Your feed-back will help us improve what is already a pretty important to contribution to Aboriginal heritage education in this State, and in Australia’.

Students come from Registered Aboriginal Parties which represent Aboriginal people in the management and protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage throughout Victoria, as well as from Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water, Department of Sustainability and Environment, and Vic Roads.

Mick Harding, Deputy Chair of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, said the course was set up in line with new heritage legislation.

‘It goes a long way to achieving cultural heritage aims to pass on to future generations. It promotes the role of Aboriginal people in the field of cultural heritage management and provides them with a career path.

‘And I hope some of you go on to become cultural heritage advisors – because that’s a role in which you can make a real difference,’ Mr Harding said.

Students are being taught how to inspect and monitor places of natural and cultural significance, conduct field work in remote and isolated situations, identify and describe materials including the discovery of human skeletal remains, conduct community consultation and deal with conflict.

They are also learning how to develop conservation strategies for cultural resources and review assessments for legislative compliance.

For further assistance and information, please contact:

La Trobe University: Maddy Maitri, Senior Educator, tel: 03 9479 2806, 0435 658 008; email: or Sharon Cleaves, tel: 0407 758 611.

Aboriginal Affairs Victoria: Natalie Paynter, tel: (03) 9208 3279; email:

Issued by: Ernest Raetz, La Trobe Media and Communications, Tel: (03) 9479 2315; 041 226 1919