Tuesday, 12 April 2011

It still remains

An interesting question always exists about what to do when any sort of development uncovers human remains.
I guess a prior question is always going to be about whether or not there has been foul play. And it would seem that usually things stop until such a question can be answered.
In a land, too, where there are occasionally going to be Aboriginal remains found from time to time the question becomes a bit more complex. Some may be recent, some may be ancient; they may be known to aboriginal communities or new discoveries; they may or may not be evidence of foul play (ancient or modern).
Such a discovery seems to have been made during the development of the rail line to the outlying suburb of Seaford. (here).
Now Seaford is a long way from the city of Adelaide, and even from Noarlunga (the next big transport hub) and is desperately in need of improved public transport so there is of course a need to prioritise in any one of a number of different directions

1. The development at all costs mentality would no doubt suggest that such a find is unfortunate and the remains would need to be removed to allow the development to go ahead.
2. The cultural heritage at all costs mentality would again suggest that such a find is unfortunate and the the development should should be stopped or at the least re-routed.

Clearly these two alternatives do not sit well and or easily with each other.

I was little surprised by a comment made by (I think) Claire Smith one of the Professors at Flinders who suggested that aboriginal people may accord more significance to human remains because for them they were still linked with the person. This would seem to be true.
But what I would suggest is surprising is the inference that some-how non-aboriginal people don't have reverence for the remains of the dead.
I don't think she would have meant such a thing. I have always felt that you shouldn't (for example) walk over graves if you can avoid it. Or behave inappropriately in a cemetery.
My impression is that most people feel similarly.

Any way...what ever happens with these particular remains, we shouldn't just imagine that the almighty dollar has the last word. And always be mindful that, however remote, human remains have been people and are always significant.

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