Using archaeology to strengthen Indigenous social, emotional, and economic wellbeing

Claire Smith, Vincent Copley, Kylie Lower, Josephine, Ania Kotarba, Gary Jackson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


The Ngadjuri people of South Australia were forcibly removed from their traditional lands in the late 19th and early 20th century. Their relocation to missions where they were under colonial control led to a disruption—but not an obliteration—of Ngadjuri links to their heritage sites and traditional lands. In the 1990s Ngadjuri people began a concerted effort to reclaim their pasts and their knowledge of their traditional lands. Since 1998, archaeological research undertaken as part of the Ngadjuri Indigenous Heritage Project has documented over 600 sites, recorded oral histories and conducted extensive archival research. Fieldwork on their traditional lands facilitated Ngadjuri connectedness with a past that was stolen from them through colonial interventions. Using access to traditional lands as a measure of Indigenous wellbeing, we discuss how knowing their traditional landscapes and cultural heritage sites has played a crucial role in strengthening Ngadjuri social, emotional and economic wellbeing and in healing the wounds of the past. Undertaken under the direction of Ngadjuri Elders, this research contributes to current iterations of community archaeology as community-directed studies undertaken by invitation and to the ongoing movement of decolonising archaeology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Archaeology, Heritage and Wellbeing
Subtitle of host publicationAuthentic, Powerful, and Therapeutic Engagement with the Past
EditorsPaul Everill, Karen Burnill
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781003182184
ISBN (Print)9781032021652, 9781032021669
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2022


  • cultural heritage
  • social and emotional wellbeing
  • economic wellbeing
  • Ngadjuri
  • Aboriginal
  • Indigenous archaeology
  • decolonising archaeology


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