Kakadu, Australia

Immediately prior to joining the Irish Heritage School, Dr. Denis Shine coordinated a community driven program of anthropological/archaeological research in the UNESCO World Heritage area of Kakadu, within the Northern Territory of Australia; this was the first systematic programme of archaeological excavation in Kakadu for over 30 years and focused on human connections to place, between an Aboriginal clan and their clan estate.

The project was multi-stranded in nature, cross-articulating different approaches to the past including oral testimonies, rock art, written histories and archaeological excavations. Such an archaeological program necessitated a community driven approach, focused on the community’s desires – as is often the case in Australia. The research was instigated and led by the host community and undertaken wholly as a partnership between them and the archaeologists over a period of three years. The partnership resulted in an extremely successful and well rounded body of research (see here), which combined both western and traditional dialogues to help record and preserve, the unique and varied history of the region.

Getting to learn the benefits of an integrated partnership approach to archaeology in Australia was a unique privilege, with Australia regularly recognized as a world leader in community archaeology. Such experience has, and will, undoubtedly help guide the Irish Heritage School’s approach to working with communities, not least on the need for concerted and coherent community engagement.