AAA2020 Virtual Conference Banner 7 - 10 Dec

Voices from Gathaagudu: Celebrating, Sharing and Connecting our Stories in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area

Harry Oakley 
Malgana Aboriginal Corporation, University of Western Australia and Department of Planning Lands and Heritage 

Co-Author/s
Nic Pedrocchi, Bianca McNeair, Pat Oakley, Bob Dorey, Jade Pervan, Kym Suckling and Aidan Ash

Since 1991, Shark Bay has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage area as a place that has outstanding universal value for its exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; its outstanding examples of biological and geomorphic evolution processes; and its refuge for many globally threatened species of plants and animals. But what happens when value is placed on some heritage assets at the expense of others? Currently, the cultural heritage values of Gathaagudu, the Malgana name for Shark Bay, meaning ‘two bays’ are not included in the World Heritage listing, despite having a rich cultural history which include more than 30,000 years of Aboriginal knowledge and stories, the earliest encounters that represent Australia’s first shared history, including the visits by the Dutch in 1616, the French in the early 1800’s and the settlement by the Chinese and Malays in search of pearls in the late 1800s. As a result of the natural values being prioritised, these cultural values have been silenced, disturbed and sometimes exploited. Malgana people and their ancestors have successfully looked after these values for over 30, 000 years and see a future where there is sustainable and long term heritage benefits that create outcomes for best practice cultural heritage protection that strengthen Gathaagudu identity and Malgana cultural connection whilst also supporting the co-existence of the natural heritage values of the UNESCO World Heritage area for future generations. It is time that their voices are heard.

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