18 months ahead of schedule and surrounded by controversy over...

18 months ahead of schedule and surrounded by controversy over Aboriginal heritage. The opening while a blessing for us motorist who use the Midlands Highway demonstrates that we still have a way to go when it comes to allowing natural justice to take it's course.

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So why was this bypass a big deal? And who is telling the truth in all of this? What was found at the Jordan River site and what is the significance of these findings to Australian culture?

I will be honest and say that even with the media coverage of Aboriginal protests I am still trying to understand what this is all about.

On the one hand I wonder why the bypass which commenced in April 2009 was allowed to reach the banks of the levee site before the recommendations of GHD appointed surveyors (Stone and Everett) we're considered. Given that these individuals completed their finding in October 2008 stating the site comprised a surface scatter of stone artefacts it seems a strange thing for the government to ignore the findings until it's too late to do anything about it.

What do these findings possibly mean to us? An aboriginal midden isn't that just a collection of old seashells? Thousands of years from now our ancestors might dig up the remains of a Collingwood football supporters BBQ and wonder over their worth! So what does it mean, what's the significance to us and our identity? And as most of us are not originally of this land, do we care? It seems that we do, and it seems that more and more we are recognising the importance of our countrys indigenous people. Not those that get drunk in the park (no offense meant plenty of whites also in this category), but the rest who study, work hard and argue passionately for a fair go and for improvements in the living quality (& health care) of their people

Then we have the Final Archaeology Report on the Test Excavations of the Jordan River Levee Site Southern Tasmania . This report by Robert Paton of Sandy Bay seems to support the findings of Stone and Everett, suggesting the area is of scientific significance and offering recommendations that the area be either carefully excavated to remove it's historical contents to a new home or museum, or fence the area off completely. Although I didn't read this report completely (these are large reports!) it did seem to be written by a person with a passion for good writing and for archaeology.

Then we have the Peer Review by Jim Allen Archaeological Consultancies of NSW . Commissioned by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Jim states that because of the lack of time given him to review the document fully. He could only concentrate on the deficiencies of Robert Patons report rather than it's virtues. Now that sounds very one sided to me and frankly makes me want to disregard his report completely as a biased piece of government propaganda.

While not getting off to a good start in my book. Jim did raise some questions about the lack of a geomorphologist to undertake basic analysis relevant to the question of site disturbance. Can someone tell me if such a person is really necessary and if so why? He also states that the stone tool analysis while extensive had little direction and provided manipulated rather than primary data that made understanding what had happened and what it might mean difficult. Furthermore he says that discussion (in the Paton document) is poor, frequently descending into assertion rather than conclusions derived from the data.

The sad thing is that while I don't like Jims tight timeframe, or his narrow edict to pick the eyes out of Patons work. As I read more it seems to me that Paton might have left himself a little open and that he might have been swallowed up by some romantic notion. His opening foreword is very well written and gentlemanly, but now that Jim is on the scene I wonder if he couldn't have defended his argument more solidly maybe with some robust science.

For example, Jim states that it is unprofessional and misleading to cite the carbon dates from other sites in uncalibrated form. When calibrated the dates for Warreen (southwest Tasmania) and Parmerpar Meethaner (central northern Tasmania) are as old and perhaps older than the Jordan River Levee site. Also, Jim states in his conclusion that he is not persuaded that the site as claimed is the oldest and best stratified open site in Tasmania, or one of the oldest in Australia. This is not to say that the site and it's artefacts are not 37,000 years old, only that this report (Patons) does not demonstrate these things.

Temporary conclusion:

I know I've probably gone on too long, so I'll wrap up for now and probably come back soon with further editing. What really gets me is that this might have been sorted out if bureaucracy had done the right thing in the first place. Anyone working in the public service knows that we tend to leave things to the last minute. We usually have plenty of time to sort through the differences, run our committees and so forth, but it always seems to take place in a screaming rush with important decisions being made without the benefit of full consideration.

Its all too easy to look around for a politician to blame, yes sometimes they are involved, but on the whole they are a figure head that changes from time to time. Most often these issues arise through the bureaucratic processes embedded in the public service. Processes that have developed and solidified over the last 100 or so years and are not want to change suddenly.

So. What could we do better next time that might avoid all of this? Is politics the reason for all this drama? Or was it a failing on DIER to consult, discuss and include interested parties?

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Posted in Childrens services Post Date 09/04/2016


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