Aborigines ecstatic at emergency listing of Brighton historic area

The news that the Brighton historic area beside the Jordan River has received listing as one of Australia's outstanding heritage places is a fantastic boost to the chances of saving the area from destruction, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre legal director Michael Mansell said. "The listing places the significance of the Jordan River area alongside Kakadu National Park, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef. This is just a wonderful Christmas present to the people of Tasmania from the Australian Government."

Youtube video - Brighton Bypass Site (31secs) | Ministerial media release: Emergency heritage protection for Jordan River levee site

Areas cannot be listed on the register unless they possess outstanding national heritage value to the Australian nation. The significance of the Jordan River area is now recognised for its evolutionary understanding of Australia's biodiversity.

To add a place to the National Heritage List it must be shown to have "outstanding heritage value to the nation". This requires a assessment of significance against other places in Australia with similar values.

We are grateful to all the people of Tasmania for the wonderful support they have expressed so publicly for the recognition of the significance of this place, and our special thanks must go to Bob Brown and Andrew Wilkie for their fantastic work.

This decision demands the Tasmanian Government begin afresh. The fresh approach must be based on the need to preserve the nationally significant area while building the bypass. The two are not mutually exclusive.

The Jordan River crossing can be achieved by supports not being placed within the significant area, or by diverting the route through any of the 8 alternatives the Tasmanian Government released. Only one of those options involved removing houses, most of the option do not require removal of houses.

The Emergency Listing by the Commonwealth sends a strong signal to the Bartlett Government that Canberra cannot believe the situation has reached this stage. Emergency listing also signals the situation has reached an emergency stage, hinting the Commonwealth can still intervene.

This situation would have been avoided had the Tasmanian Government not misled the Australian Government in 2007. Whenever there is a major works,especially funded by the Commonwealth, environmental impact studies dealing with flora and fauna and historical areas are conducted. The Tasmanian Government conducted surveys on plants and European history but told Canberra Aboriginal heritage would be satisfactorily dealt with later.

On that basis the Commonwealth signed of under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act in 2007.

The State did not begin its Aboriginal survey until 2008, well after road works had begun under Commonwealth EPBC approval. The State found the area beside the Jordan River to have extraordinary history in 2008, new it was in trouble with dates going back 40,000 years in 2009, and order destruction of the area in 2010.

The Commonwealth were understandably dismayed that the State had positioned the Commonwealth in funding a project that would destroy an area warranting outstanding national heritage listing.

This declaration from the Commonwealth is no green light to the Tasmanian Government to go ahead with its narrow-minded, ill conceived plan: it signals an intention by the Commonwealth to give space for the Tasmanian Government to resolve this debacle and save face otherwise the Commonwealth will step in."

Michael Mansell Legal Director 22nd December 2010 0429310116



Excerpt from the ABCNew Stateline, March 12, 2010

FIONA BREEN, REPORTER: What is significant about the landscape of this particular area?

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT, ARCHAEOLOGIST: It's significant because it's an alluvial landscape and all that means is that the Jordan River over here has built up this land form over a long period of time and as Aboriginal community groups would visit this particular site, they'd leave their stone tools and then in-between flooding events they would get buried and obviously it just gets a snap shot in time of different culture visitations to this site.

FIONA BREEN: So can you show us, you know, where you've been digging?

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT: We have in this profile a good 30 cm of undisturbed sediment. So it hasn't been altered difference it was deposited 40,000 years ago, 30 and up to 28,000 years ago. So we have over a period of time different activity floors that are separated by at least 10,000 years.

FIONA BREEN: So a map of ages really.

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT: Yes, a map of ages. And ordinarily that map of ages in most other sites has been sort of squashed or disturbed and everything gets mixed together and you can't tell what has come from, so we may find that at 40,000 years people were coming her to do different things then what they were doing at 28,000 years.

FIONA BREEN: So how exciting is that as an archaeologist?

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT: It's very exciting because it's very, very rare that you'll get in an open site, you will get a stratified site that you can see through the ages and time different activity floors.

Most open sites around Australia, as I said, have been disturbed and you don't get that kind of information. It's a very old, potentially very old site, even if the site was just at 28,000 years it still puts it at a great antiquity. There are only a handful of sites in Tasmania that are of great antiquity and also on the mainland.

FIONA BREEN: You were saying before that one of the oldest or some of the oldest sites in Tasmania south west are actually about 30,000 years so this potentially could be older?

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT: Yes that's correct.

FIONA BREEN: What would Tasmania have been like at that point?

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT: Well basically Tasmania would have been joined to the mainland of Australia, there would have been a land bridge or people would have at least been able to hop through shallow seas across to Tasmania. It would have been very cold and it would have been very dry.

FIONA BREEN: So we don't know a lot about this period of time?

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT: We don't, we don't. The majority of our sites are from when the sea levels rose during the Holocene period so when the sea levels stabilised and when conditions became a lot nicer to live in. Pleistocene sites have been destroyed, they're quite rare and this is why this site is so important.

FIONA BREEN: Is it significant internationally?

CORNELIA DE ROCHEFORT: It will be because significant internationally, because again, it relates to the colonisation of Australia and the spread of humans from out of Africa, Europe, down through Asia and into Australia.