Farmers ‘nervous’ about Aboriginal stone tools

An indigenous stone tool being looked at in a ‘Talking About Stones’ event in Henty, NSW. Image: ANU

AUSTRALIAN farmers are frequently finding Aboriginal stone tools on their land but they’re often nervous about what to do with them, says researchers at ANU. 

Lead researcher Dr Robyn McKenzie says the team at ANU want to help resolve the frequent yet complex issue of indigenous artefacts found on Australian farms.

“It became evident most of those stone tools had been brought in by farmers who had found them whilst working,” Dr McKenzie says.

“In fact we found finding these stone tools was so common that most farming families in the region had a collection of stone tools stored away in an old shoe box or a milk create.”

Dr McKenzie says because farmers are unsure of what might happen if they come forward after finding these artefacts, many of them are donated anonymously, making it impossible to track their history.

“People just don’t know what to do with them, they are nervous about it,” she says.

“They know these artefacts are of significant cultural value, but due to complex legislation and misinformation, they are fearful of what might happen if they tell someone about them.

“They are not sure about Native Title, and they are scared that if they find important items they might have their land taken from them, which is not the case.”

Dr McKenzie says the complicated legislation that differs from state to state only furthers the issue.

“The NSW Aboriginal Heritage legislation, for example, states items should not be harmed or moved, so instead of coming forward, farmers pack them away or anonymously donate them,” she says.

Dr McKenzie and her team will be holding a series of “Talking About Stones” events in the region and hope to find farmers willing to discuss the issues and allow them to document their collections.

 

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