Aborigines denounce UNESCO Australian listings

August 2, 2010 12:00 am

, SYDNEY, Aug 2 – Aboriginal activists on Monday condemned UNESCO\’s inclusion of Australian convict-era monuments on the World Heritage register, saying no more "white Australian" sites should be added.

Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Director Michael Mansell decried the weekend listing by the UN cultural agency of the 11 sites, saying none should be included while the country\’s indigenous heritage is in danger of extinction.

"The international body should reject any application from Australia to preserve European heritage so long as Aboriginal heritage is being neglected, or even worse being destroyed on the scale that it is," he told public broadcaster ABC.

Mansell said he had written to UNESCO asking it not to approve the listings, which were announced at a meeting in Brasilia.

The listing will ensure protection for significant sites associated with Australia\’s convict heritage, including Sydney\’s famous 19th century Hyde Park Barracks and Tasmania\’s Port Arthur penal settlement.

But Mansell raised concerns about what he said was the Tasmanian government\’s failure to protect Aboriginal culture, such as archaeological sites that would be overrun by a proposed bypass north of Hobart.

Richard Broome, professor of history at Melbourne\’s La Trobe University, told AFP: "There needs to be much more interest and investigation into Aboriginal culture on the part of government and our heritage bodies."

But this should not come at the expense of Australia\’s European heritage, he added.

"The best thing would be to give attention to all cultural sites that need it, rather than some," he said.

UNESCO has described the sites as the "best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of prisoners".

In addition to Hyde Park Barracks and Port Arthur, they include Old Government House and Sydney\’s Domain public gardens, jails on Sydney\’s Cockatoo Island, and Fremantle Prison in Western Australia.

Until the new additions, Australia had 17 World Heritage sites, only two of which are man-made while another four combine natural with Aboriginal heritage.

Around 162,000 men and women were transported to Australia as convicts from Britain and its colonies between 1788 and 1868 for a range of offences, including theft.



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