Indigenous-Owned Archaeology Firm Putting Heritage Back into Indigenous hands

Murrumbidgee Archeology and Heritage (MAH) is a newly established consulting firm based in the Riverina region of the ACT. It is the first ever entirely Indigenous owned Archaeology firm. The MAH team holds decades of experience in archeology and heritage management. Being Indigenous owned makes MAH unique as they have the ability to authentically represent Indigenous communities and cultural heritage (NIT, 2021).

Founder of MAH, Walgalu, Ngunnawal and Wiradjuri man Robert Williams. Courtesy of ANU, 2021.

MAH offers a unique approach to heritage management, merging together cultural knowledge and protocols with leading archaeological applications. The team's Indigenous cultural foundation guides their ethical values, putting them in the best possible position to engage with Indigenous stakeholders and community. Some of the key services they provide include heritage advice, archival research, site survey, heritage impact and risk assessments, site monitoring and artefact analysis. Alongside their heritage work, MAH also carries out community workshops tailored to the cultural needs of the community (MAH, 2021). Founder Robert Williams in an interview with NIT (2021) elaborates on their community work:

“We are committed to reinvesting in Indigenous communities, through our work, we aim to provide Indigenous peoples with the opportunity to engage meaningfully with their culture and heritage, this is caring for country.”

MAH’s long-term goal is to develop opportunities through archaeology and caring for country that can engage, employ and empower Indigenous Australians (MAH, 2021).

MAH founder Walgalu, Ngunnawal and Wiradjuri man Robert Williams holds a Bachelor of Archaeology and a Master in Archaeological Science (Advanced) from the Australian National University. Williams’ professional and academic experience includes cultural and heritage management, native title and archaeological field methods. His passion for the preservation of Indigenous heritage traces back to his father, an Elder and Traditional Owner. Through starting Murrumbidgee Archaeology and Heritage, Williams has the opportunity to revitalise Indigenous responsibility for culture and heritage (ANU, 2021).

Wiradjuri Scar tree located on the outskirts Narrandera, NSW. Courtesy of The Conversation, 2021.

This year, Robert Williams contributed a passionate and informative article about the importance of trees within Indigenous culture to The Conversation. Sacred trees are a precious part of Indigenous Heritage that MAH is working hard to protect. Sacred trees form a significant part of interpersonal relationships and connection to place, featuring as a part of ceremony, birthing and burials. In Wiradjuri Country, carved trees mark ceremonial ground. For thousands of years, sacred trees have provided First Nations people with fibre, tools, food and material for canoe-making. It is for these reasons that Robert Williams and MAH are working hard to prevent the further destruction of sacred trees, such as what happened to the 800 year old Djab Wurrung sacred trees (The Conversation, 2021). 

It is wonderful to see Indigenous heritage protection being put into the hands of Indigenous people. May the ancient and precious nature of Indigenous culture and heritage continue to be recognised and protected so that future generations have the opportunity to learn about and witness these incredible ancient sites and artefacts.