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Midden discover slows Romiaka bridge works

The middens (marked as eastern and western sites) are located on the western side of the new Romiaka channel bridge presently under construction. Image Contributed

Geoff Helisma

Excavation works for the presently under construction Romiaka Channel bridge replacement have unearthed shell middens on the Palmers Island side of the works.

As a result of the discovery, work has ceased in that specific area.

The area is adjacent to a Federal Court determined native title held by Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate).

The corporation’s chairperson, Billy Walker, said Yaegl Aboriginal elder and archaeologist Ron Herron has been commissioned to complete an archaeological survey of the area.

“Part 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act provides specific protection for Aboriginal objects and declared Aboriginal places by establishing offences of harm,” the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage website states.

“Anyone proposing to carry out an activity that may harm an Aboriginal object or a declared Aboriginal place must investigate, assess and report on the harm that may be caused by that activity.”

Ultimately, before any more work can take place in the vicinity of the midden, an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit will have to be granted.

On the cultural significance of middens, which in general terms are where Aboriginal people ate shellfish, fish and other animals, Mr Walker said, “sometime you might find animal and fish bones among the oyster and other shell types and, in some cases, [middens were] used for burial purposes”.

“The more sites destroyed, effaced or damaged, the less history is handed on or told by our people,” he said.

“There are stories we hear that are handed down to us, fair enough, but some of those sites have not been visited by our young people.

“The corporation needs to teach [our young people] how to preserve and protect those sites and, by doing so, provide a foundation and awareness to the general community.”

Clarence Valley Council (CVC), as the proponent for the bridge’s construction, has invited “Aboriginal organisations and/or people who hold knowledge relevant to determining the cultural heritage significance of these Aboriginal objects and/or places within the project area to register an interest in participating in a process of community consultation”, a CVC advertisement (not published in the Independent) states.

Following the community consultation, an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment will be prepared, which will “assist the Director General in considering and determining an application for an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit”.

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