The Traditional Owners of this land are those who identify as
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Sovereignty was never ceded.

ANTAR pays respect to Elders past, present, and emerging through our dedicated advocacy for First Nations Peoples’ justice and rights.

ANTAR acknowledges the responsibility of committing to a truth-telling process that promotes an honest and respectful path forward for future generations to build upon.

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Cultural Heritage What is First Nations cultural heritage?
3 minutes

What is First Nations cultural heritage?

Last edited: July 8, 2024

Cultural heritage is living so the definition is always evolving. What is considered cultural heritage and how is this established?

Wuthathi-Meriam woman and prominent legal authority Terri Janke describes Cultural Heritage as:

Cultural practices, resources and knowledge systems developed, nurtured and refined by Indigenous people and passed on by them as part of expressing their cultural identity.

Cultural Heritage is…

  • Literacy, performing and artistic works including music, dance, song, ceremonies, symbols and designs, narratives and poetry.
  • Language
  • Scientific, agricultural, technical and ecological knowledge including cultigens, medicines and sustainable use of flora and fauna.
  • Spiritual knowledge
  • Moveable cultural property including burial artefacts
  • Indigenous ancestral remains
  • Cultural environment resources
  • Immovable cultural property including sites of significance, and burials
  • Documentation of Indigenous people’s heritage in all forms of media including scientific, ethnographic research reports, papers and books, films, sound recordings.

Gumatj clan members performing bunggul (traditional dance) at the Garma Festival in northeast Arnhem Land, 2019.

Australia’s ancient and continuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage is fundamental to First Nations peoples. To destroy a cultural heritage site is to sever First Nations peoples’ inherent connections to their ancestors, to country, and to culture.

First Nations cultural heritage is living, so the definition is always evolving.

Sixty-five thousand years of uninterrupted heritage, demonstrated by archaeological evidence, makes our continent unique in the world… Australia’s landscape, waters, and seas, collectively referred to as ‘country’, are alive with a profusion of heritage places. Imbued with the essence of ancestral beings that created them, it is through these places that family descent and kinship connections flow.

Dhawura Ngilan: A Vision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage in Australia

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, both contemporary and ancient, is celebrated nationally and on the global stage as one of the world’s longest continuously enduring human civilisations. Archaeological investigations that led to the discovery of human remains from the late 1960s onwards in the region of Willandra Lakes of southwest NSW, virtually rewrote the world’s ‘pre-history’ period of humanity. Today we have First Nations authors and academics celebrating their cultural heritage with titles such as Loving Country: A guide to sacred Australia or Welcome to Country: A travel Guide to Indigenous Australia. In Welcome to Country, Marcia Langton has written something of a Lonely Planet guidebook to First Nations Australia. It covers pre-colonial history, cultural landscapes and artefacts, and takes us on a joyful contemporary journey to locations in each state and territory across this ancient continent.

Langton reflects that perhaps the greatest legacy of the pre history peoples is to be found in the vegetation patterns and other evidence of tens of thousands of years of continent-wide land management regimes as discussed in Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth and more recently in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.

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