Indigenous Voices at WAC-4

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    A growing commitment to Indigenous voice in the form of the involvement of Indigenous Australians in the communication of research results is apparent in the number of Aboriginal people who attended WAC4, the meeting of the World Archaeological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, 10-14 January 1999. Sixteen of the 62 Australian delegates to this congress were Indigenous Australians. They were women and men of various ages and occupations and they came from communities in remote, urban and rural areas of Australia. Their attendance was supported by AIATSIS and various other organisations. They presented papers on a range of issues, generally relating to the political and ethical dimensions of archaeology, and participated in a panel discussion which followed the premiere of a documentary.

    After decades of silence and exclusion, Indigenous peoples are demanding that they be actively involved in the communication of information about their cultures (see, for example, Rigney 1997). One important way in which this can be achieved is through their participation in the dissemination of research results at conferences. There are many reasons why the results of research should be disseminated by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together. First, there is the obvious argument that research with Indigenous peoples is inherently collaborative in nature and that the outcomes of collaborative research (and the production of joint intellectual property) should be presented jointly by both parties. Apart from this, participation in conferences can give Indigenous people greater knowledge of what is being said about them as well as the manner in which this is communicated. This has implications, in turn, for the researcher obtaining informed consent for later work. This process can be particularly enlightening for people from remote areas as it shows them what researchers actually do when they leave a community. In the words of Jack Chadum from Amhem Land when he attended his first conference: `I know what you [researchers] do now--you go away and talk about us'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)69-71
    Number of pages3
    JournalAustralian Aboriginal Studies
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


    • World Archaeological Congress
    • Indigenous
    • decolonisation
    • conferences


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