Extinct No More: Discourses on Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage
University of Kansas
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A belief has persisted that the Tasmanian Aboriginals became extinct in 1876, in the aftermath of colonization. Heritage has assumed a central role in the contemporary efforts of Tasmanian Aboriginals to reassert their identity and regain self-determination. As a consequence, Aboriginal heritage is a contentious political issue in Tasmania, with dispute focused particularly on efforts to replace the existing state Aboriginal heritage protection legislation, the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975. Additionally, the completion of a highway bypass at Brighton in 2012, despite the discovery of a significant Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage site, caused unprecedented Aboriginal protests in the state. In this dissertation, I analyze the discourses that surround Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage in: 1) the currently enforced and proposed Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage protection legislation; 2) public opinion on the Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage protection legislation and Brighton Bypass controversy; and 3) tourism material produced by the Tasmanian government. I demonstrate the continuing influence of the "myth of extinction" on Tasmanian heritage legislation and public perceptions, the discrepancy in enforcement of measures designed to protect European and Aboriginal heritage in Tasmania, the discursive positioning of Tasmanian Aboriginals in the past and spatial periphery in tourism interpretive and promotional material, and the need for increased collaboration between the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and the Tasmanian government.
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