Cultural Heritage Sites

When Europeans first came to Australia, land was taken over from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for farming, gold mining and the development of the many ports and towns that exist today.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were pushed to the fringes of townships whilst others were completely removed from their homelands and placed on missions and reserves. A lot of evidence of sites originally used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been destroyed or removed.

However, there are still many cultural heritage sites remaining which show the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived, where they ate and where they made tools and implements.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander occupation sites can be identified by things like middens, which are refuse heaps that contain large amounts of leftover shell (from meals of shellfish), stones, charcoal and bones.

Middens tell us what type of food was eaten and which areas people inhabited. There are also mythological sites, ceremonial sites like bora rings (a raised platform of circular dirt), open-air sites of camp sites, workplaces and burial grounds.

Some burial grounds are in the ocean – they were covered by the last major sea rise more than 15,000 years ago. Occupation sites are still very important places for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These days Indigenous cultural heritage and stories are often incorporated into mainstream tourism activities.