The road to fieldwork

At the beginning of June last year, I set off for Barunga from my home in Adelaide with my partner, Antoinette, and our friend Jasmine. We’ve made this trip a number of times before, but this one was a little different. Ant and I were going to live in Barunga for several months for my PhD fieldwork. Jasmine, of course, is from Barunga but now lives in Adelaide while she finishes her degree.

Barunga is an Aboriginal community in Jawoyn Country, roughly 80km south-east of Katherine in the Northern Territory. It’s home to around 300 people and hosts an annual sport, culture and music festival. My supervisor, Claire, has worked there for almost 30 years with her anthropologist husband, Jacko.

Jawoyn Country, featuring the three largest communities: Barunga, Beswick and Manyallaluk. The map also shows the location of past and present shelters where the consumption of liquor is legal.
The three largest communities in Jawoyn Country: Barunga, Beswick and Manyallaluk. The map also shows the location of various ‘drinking places’

I’ve been working in Barunga since 2010 when I started my Honours research, looking at visual and material responses to the Howard Government’s Northern Territory National Emergency Response (or the Intervention). After graduating Honours, I continued visiting Barunga during the dry season each year while I taught on the Community Archaeology Field School and developed my next research project.

While the roughly 2,500km drive to Barunga was old news to us, the prospect of the next few months was daunting. We stopped at the usual spots along the way Continue reading “The road to fieldwork”

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Contested spaces: the ‘long-grassers’, living private lives in public places

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People have camped in the long grass since colonisation. From this perspective, bans on the practice are a denial of Indigenous agency, culture and rights to country. Photo: K. Pollard

Kellie Pollard, Flinders University; Claire Smith, Flinders University, and Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

This is the final article in The Conversation’s Contested Spaces series. These pieces look at the conflicting uses, expectations and norms that people bring to public spaces, the clashes that result and how we can resolve these.


The number of people in Australia who are homeless is increasing. They lead lives that are often hidden – either hidden from view or hidden from recognition.

Looking at the places they camp and the things they use gives us insights into these private lives in public places. In Darwin, Northern Territory, more than 90% of homeless people are Aboriginal. In contrast to perceptions of other homeless people sleeping rough, these “long-grassers” are applying a long cultural tradition to deal with the situation in which they find themselves.

Two recent films, Rolf de Heer’s Charlie’s Country and Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin, succinctly – but accurately – encapsulate the ease with which people can end up living in the long grass. Many come to the city from remote communities. They may have been visiting someone in hospital, watching friends in an AFL game, or staying with relatives in the city.

After a time, these short-term stays come to an end. Often, these visitors move into the “long grass”, urban fringe areas where tall spear grass grows.

The long grass is shared space – parks, beaches, urban bushland. However, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people behave differently in these spaces. The agency of Aboriginal people can challenge mainstream expectations about the uses of shared public space.

Laws that deny Indigenous custom

The Aboriginal use of long grass spaces contravenes NT laws. Under Darwin City Council Bylaws Regulation 103, it is an offence to camp or sleep in public places. Other bylaws regulate behaviours ranging from the consumption of alcohol to leaving food scraps in public.

People who camp in the long grass risk fines they can’t pay. Sometimes, they are jailed for non-payment. As their disadvantage becomes criminalised, their capacity to improve their lives decreases.

Successive governments and city councils have engaged in campaigns against the long-grassers. George Brown, Darwin lord mayor from 1992 to 2002, said:

… harass, harass, harass … I reckon that if you keep shifting them around, constantly harass them so they can’t settle, they will get sick and tired of it and maybe some of them will go back to their own communities.

Continue reading “Contested spaces: the ‘long-grassers’, living private lives in public places”

The markers of everyday racism in Australia

Claire Smith, Flinders University; Jordan Ralph, Flinders University, and Kellie Pollard, Flinders University

Children representing the diversity of contemporary multicultural Australia stand near a sign depicting an ‘idealised’ white Australia. Blackwood Recreation Centre, South Australia, 2015. Photo: C. Smith
Children representing the diversity of contemporary multicultural Australia stand near a sign depicting an ‘idealised’ white Australia. Blackwood Recreation Centre, South Australia, 2015. Photo: C. Smith

While Australians value equality, our multicultural nation contains markers of racial discrimination. Some are so innocuous we may not recognise them.

Experiencing racism is part of the everyday lives of many Australians. What is it like to negotiate daily life in a material world that often excludes you, or selectively seeks to control you?

Let’s try to understand the experience of everyday racism by negotiating the material world of an Aboriginal person in northern Australia. You have come into Katherine, Northern Territory, from a remote community. It might be say, Barunga, 80 kilometres away, or Bulman Continue reading “The markers of everyday racism in Australia”

Heritage Alert: Z Ward, Glenside Hospital, Adelaide

Jordan Ralph

Glenside Z Ward Insane Asylum
Z Ward at Glenside Hospital (formerly Parkside Insane Asylum). Photograph: Brad Shepherd, Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

This Saturday may be the last chance for the public to visit the State Heritage registered Z Ward of Glenside Hospital (formerly Parkside Lunatic Asylum) free of charge. Z Ward is due to undergo renovations to convert it into office space for SA company, Beach Energy early in 2015. Thanks to negotiations between the National Trust (SA), the Glenside Hospital Historical Society, and Beach Energy there will be a second open day on 15/11/14.

The first open day was held on 02/11/14 and was attended by over 5,000 people, most of whom had to be turned away due to the lack of space within the building. To address the problem encountered at the previous open day, those who want to attend on Saturday must book a spot via the National Trust (SA)’s new website, Heritage Watch. Tickets are free; to book you must sign up to the Heritage Watch newsletter, then click the link titled ‘Second open day at Z Ward, November 15’ once the page loads.

Over the next few months, there will be guided day and night tours available for a fee (more information at Heritage Watch):

These tours will be available for a fee, which will be used by the National Trust to undertake the work of documenting the history of the Z Ward building and capturing the many stories we have heard from people who have a connection to the building and its past.

About Z Ward

Dave Walsh – a blogger from South Australia – has published a number of articles on the website Weekend Notes about Adelaide and its natural and built heritage, including Glenside Hospital and Z Ward. Of interest to those who want to find out more about Z Ward, Dave has written about the Glenside Hospital historical precinct, Z Ward, and the first and second open days.

Heritage significance

According to the National Trust, architectural heritage consultants are involved in the Z Ward project; however, I cannot find any mention about how (or even if) cultural heritage managers and archaeological consultants were engaged:

South Australia’s former Hospital for Criminal Mental Defectives known as Z Ward was sold by the State Government in August to local company Beach Energy. It had been hoped that this important State Heritage listed building designed by Edward John Woods, SA Architect in Chief from 1878 to 1886, would become a South Australian medical museum. The new owners are in the process of appointing a heritage architect to oversee their plans to re-use the building as office space. They have met with the National Trust and the Glenside Hospital Historical Society to discuss the site’s future. We are looking forward to working with Beach Energy to achieve an adaptive reuse which respects the building’s significant history and provides for regular public access to parts of the building. (Heritage Watch).

From my point-of-view, the supposed lack of engagement with archaeological and other heritage consultants is problematic. Can anyone confirm no archaeological consultants were/are involved?

While it is important to work with architectural heritage professionals for built heritage projects such as the Glenside Hospital and Z Ward, the heritage significance of these places is multi-faceted and needs to be assessed from more than one viewpoint. By viewing the heritage significance of these sites through more than one lens (e.g. archaeological, historical, social, cultural as well as architectural), we are able to arrive at a more holistic, comprehensive assessment that focusses on more than one layer of a multi-layered story. Perhaps then we will have a greater chance at protecting these places.

Z Ward in the news

Here are a couple of recent news articles about Z Ward and the open days from the ABC and The Eastern Courier Messenger and a photoblog from the ABC. Don’t forget to check out the National Trust (SA)’s Heritage Watch website for more updates about Z Ward and at-risk heritage sites in South Australia.

Look out for our article about Z Ward next week after our visit. Please leave some feedback below or on Twitter (@talkarchaeology) if you want us to expand on anything in our next post. 

Load up Adelaidia when you visit Adelaide – and step into the past

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This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

By Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

Interpretive signage may be a thing of the past in Adelaide thanks to a new interactive mobile app and website from History SA. Launched in early 2014, Adelaidia puts the history of Adelaide’s CBD at the fingertips of anyone with a computer or a smart phone.

Adelaidia allows users to discover the history of people, places, events and organisations that have contributed to the story of Adelaide since European settlement. Users can access biographies uploaded by History SA and Adelaidia’s content partners.

Adelaidia promotes the tangible heritage of Adelaide – that is, the things we can see and touch, such as buildings, places, objects, and so on. It also promotes the intangible heritage of the city – the things we cannot see or touch, such as cultural traditions, events and themes.

The real strength of Adelaidia is the interactive features that allow users to contribute their own personal stories and experiences. From a cultural heritage preservation and research point-of-view, recording the experiences of individuals and groups is imperative; these stories give places and objects meaning. Unfortunately, because the stories are typically “siloed memories” rather than public histories, they are among the first sources of historical information to disappear.

The basics

When accessing Adelaidia on both web and mobile platforms (and its South Australia-wide partner website, SA History Hub), users can choose a topic from the main menu: people, places, events, organisations. Selecting any one of these items will load a list of entries pertaining to the history of Adelaide. Each entry contains at least a biographical account and the option for users to view and upload media and personal stories relating to the entry.

Adelaidia mobile app main menu. Jordan Ralph

 

So far, not many users have contributed their oral histories – or in this case digital histories – to Adelaidia. As far as I can see from the “stories” option on the main menu, only two have been uploaded since the launch of the system.

The lack of willingness to engage, on the part of the residents of Adelaide, might be for any combination of reasons. Among them, these might include simply not knowing that the option is there, people thinking that their story might be too mundane to contribute, that it might be perceived as too difficult. Or, of course, they may legitimately have nothing to write.

One way for this issue to be rectified is for History SA to continue to upload its own content – and to form partnerships with additional content partners. That way, more entries will be submitted, including the noticeably absent Victoria Square and Adelaide Oval, allowing people to share their experiences about these places.

Camera and GPS integration with mobile app

Augmented reality in action. Adelaidia displaying direction and distance to Adelaide General Post Office from Victoria Square. Jordan Ralph

For the most part, the mobile app is a “lite” version of the Adelaidia website; it contains basically the same content in a more streamlined design suitable for a handheld device. The app makes use of the smart phone’s in-built camera and GPS system for users to find out about places near to them and go on themed tours.

When activated, the augmented reality view displays the direction and distance of entries featured in Adelaidia, overlayed on real-time images captured by the phone’s camera.

Similarly, the map view uses the device’s GPS system to display a plan view of Adelaide’s CBD with Adelaidia entries marked by grey pinpoints. Clicking on the pinpoints in both views will load the biographical information of that entry.

Adelaidia website

When I road-tested the augmented-reality feature, the system clearly struggled to work in the CBD, supposedly due to interference caused by lack of satellite reception. This meant that, until I used it in the open space of Victoria Square, the direction and distance markers for most entries were inaccurate. This is a small bug in otherwise great software, especially considering this is meant to be a fun extra. On the other hand, the map feature works perfectly.

One option for History SA to consider is to add a check-in feature that may boost the number of users who interact with the software. This could be done by adding the feature locally or by integrating a Swarm or Yelp check-in option.

The future

Adelaidia, along with the SA History Hub, brings interpretive signage into the 21st century. It has the potential to be a valuable, accessible resource to tourists, researchers and even those who are just looking for some entertainment.

History SA has made a revolutionary step in preserving and celebrating the cultural heritage of Adelaide. For this software to reach its full potential, it must continue promoting the valuable user contribution features and engage with more experts to contribute content – especially regarding Adelaide’s Indigenous past. Following that, Adelaidia will mature from its infancy and help turn siloed memories into public histories.

For this review the Adelaidia mobile app was accessed on both a Samsung Galaxy S5 with high accuracy GPS feature enabled and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, with the GPS feature enabled.

The Conversation

Jordan Ralph receives funding from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities for the Sharing Community Heritage Stories subprogram of the Your Community Heritage program.

Not just cricket: protecting heritage at the Adelaide Oval

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By Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Mitchell Johnson lines up to bowl at the Cathedral end of the new-look Adelaide Oval. A slow clap resounds from the western grandstand of the partially redeveloped complex, in support of the Australian fast bowler. English captain Alastair Cook responds to Johnson’s head-high bouncer with a hook shot, but is caught by Ryan Harris at fine leg.

The crowd’s applause quickly turns to a roar as Harris tumbles, recovering from his catch. Eyes move to the historic scoreboard where the numbers are rotated manually to show that England is now one-for-one, chasing 531 in its second innings of the second Ashes test.

In a time where built heritage is too often neglected in preference of development, the century-old scoreboard stood earlier this week as a reminder of the Oval’s tremendous antiquity and the cultural significance of this place.

The century-old Adelaide Oval scoreboard remains standing amongst the 21st century development and technology. Adriano of Adelaide

Redevelopment

As part of a A$535 million collaboration between the Government of South Australia and the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority (AOSMA), the Adelaide Oval has been undergoing a major facelift since 2010 to bring its facilities into the 21st century. The Oval will once again be the home of sport in South Australia: international and local cricket matches will be fought on the same turf as AFL, which is leaving AAMI Stadium behind in 2014 in favour of the modernised ground.

The redevelopment has had its share of opponents – most notably from the peak body of heritage protection in South Australia, the National Trust (SA), who threatened to delist the heritage-listed features of Adelaide Oval from the South Australian Heritage Register since many features had been demolished. They claimed:

the ground is no longer an iconic cricket ground, it’s turning into a generic universal stadium that could be anywhere in the world.

The new western grandstand. You can see part of the original George Giffen stand in yellow diectly between the upper and lower levels. mertie

What has been removed and what remains?

All pre-2010 stands at the Adelaide Oval have been demolished, including most of the George Giffen, Sir Edwin Smith and Mostyn Evan stands, which are listed on the SA Heritage Register. Parts of those stands remain, including the red brick archways and the centre of the George Giffen stand, which make up a portion of the new western grandstand.

The heritage-listed manual scoreboard, designed by renowned South Australian architect Kenneth Milne and erected in 1911, remains standing at the northern end of the complex, flanked by the famous grassed northern mound and Moreton Bay figs.

Pacifying those with a desire to have the most up-to-date technology, the old scoreboard is complemented by a new video screen that has been erected directly beside it. The heritage features of the Oval sit effectively within the newer structures to create a scene that is both contemporary, yet uniquely Adelaide.

Major features removed:

  • All pre-2010 grandstands (some were listed on the SA Heritage Register).

Major features remaining:

  • Victor Richardson Gates (local heritage listing, to be re-installed after construction work has ceased).
  • Scoreboard (constructed 1911, confirmed as a State Heritage Place in the SA Heritage Register, 1986).
  • Parts of the George Giffen (constructed 1882, redeveloped 1889, 1929), Sir Edwin Smith (constructed 1929) and Mostyn Evan (constructed 1929) grandstands (collectively confirmed as a State Heritage Place in the SA Heritage Register, 1986).
  • Northern mound and Moreton Bay Fig trees.
From this… Simon Lieshkie
To this. HeatherW

Development vs heritage

Has Adelaide Oval lost its cultural significance, as feared by the National Trust (SA) and Oliver Brown at The Telegraph? Or should the oval go one step further, as proposed by Bernard Humphreys at The Advertiser, and remove the old scoreboard?

In my view, the scoreboard must stay at the Adelaide Oval. Removing it from this place will mean that it loses all of its cultural significance, even if it is moved to another venue, such as the Thebarton Oval.

Structures of this sort do not become culturally significant and “mean” something by themselves. People give them meaning; stakeholders give them meaning. Our collective experiences at Adelaide Oval, such as the one illustrated in the first paragraph of this article, make such structures significant.

Removing the scoreboard will mean the intangible heritage of Adelaide Oval will be lost and so too will the meaning we give to it. Only when features such as the scoreboard, the Moreton Bay figs and the remainder of the historic grandstands are removed will Adelaide Oval become a “generic universal stadium”. That does not look like happening any time soon.

Development and heritage

“Development” has become synonymous with “destruction” in conversations about heritage in recent years. But there is an opportunity to harmonise heritage and development, and AOSMA has demonstrated this successfully.

As well as retaining the heritage features of the Oval, AOSMA has managed to create a state-of-the-art sporting and entertainment venue that will allow South Australia to attract major international events and, in effect, boost the state’s economy.

Save for cricket season, over the summer, and the odd concert, Adelaide Oval was underused and neglected. This was to be its future and its legacy had this redevelopment not taken place.

Now, with stands that will be able to accommodate up to 50,000 people once the project is completed, greater parking and public transport facilities, and the AFL moving back, AOSMA and the South Australian government have breathed A$535 million of life into Adelaide Oval and the state of South Australia.

The example that AOSMA has set can be put to use at other historic heritage places – so long as the needs of the key stakeholders are met, heritage experts are consulted and the cultural significance of the place is not compromised.

Jordan Ralph does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.