• Work on the light rail has temporarily stopped at the Randwick site after the artefact find. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Cultural heritage experts have linked the uncovering of thousands of Indigenous artefacts to a massacre site and are calling for an immediate end of construction ahead of a rally on Friday.
By
Philip Ly

Source:
NITV News
1 Apr 2016 - 2:03 PM  UPDATED 1 Apr 2016 - 2:08 PM

Key points

► More than 22,000 Aboriginal artefacts have been uncovered at the Randwick light rail construction site 

► Aboriginal heritage specialists say there is evidence which suggests it is the site of a possible massacre

 Among the discoveries are stone off-cuts and blades, and spear-tips 

► Groups are calling for an emergency stop work order

Construction work at the immediate site has temporarily stopped

► Transport for NSW, ALTRAC Light Rail and Aboriginal groups are working together to find the best management strategy

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups will gather near the Sydney Light Rail construction site in Randwick where more than 22,000 artefacts were found, to call for the site to be permanently protected.

Among the artefacts found were blades and tools used for cutting.

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But more significantly a key consultant in the project believes objects such as speartips and Bondi tips indicate there was conflict. 

Tocomwall’s director Danny Franks says the sheer quantity of speartips and blades suggests traditional owners were “manufacturing and going up in arms for a reason”.

“This leads us to suggest there was conflict here, which very well has a high probability of meaning there was death associated with this site.”

ALTRAC Light Rail is working with Transport for NSW to deliver the project in a private-public partnership.

Its chief executive Glenn Bentley says finding something that’s relatively undisturbed is significant and exciting, and the social value of this to the local Aboriginal community is immense.

He says he’s committed to working with the Aboriginal stakeholders to “unlock the puzzle” and find out what the area was used for.

Works have stopped and will not continue until ongoing investigations finish in an area where arteacts have been located on the site.

Mr Bentley says once the investigations conclude, the real work will start in putting the pieces together and understand what did happen.

“I’ve heard lots of stories… at the moment I can’t comment on what happened here because we really don’t know, but it’s actually a very exciting journey to actually work out what did happen,” Mr Bentley says.

Tomcomwall’s cultural heritage specialist Scott Franks says what was found is a matter of national significance.

“It simply demonstrates we had a society which was here, it was a family doing their business,” Mr Franks says.

“This site represents a clear confrontation of women and children and men who were taken from the land.”

As an Aboriginal heritage advisor he says the site needs to be preserved for the benefit of future generations, and to understand the country’s heritage.

“We can’t do that if it’s being ripped up ... ripping this up and not treating it like a proper archaeological dig is criminal.

“We can’t advance unless we understand what happened in the past. It’s not being allowed here.”

Citing a 1790 journal entry from Watkin Tench, Mr Franks says a garrison of 40 marines was sent to the north arm of Botany, which is Randwick today, to deal with Aboriginal occupation.

“You’ve got 40 marines armed to the teeth coming out here looking for a group of people who had an interaction with the garrison,” he says.

“Mr (Governor) Phillips responded then in a technique, which was obviously to get rid of them in any means. I mean the reference refers to being given ‘bags and hatchets to bring back the heads’.”

Greens MP and Aboriginal justice spokesperson David Shoebridge is organising Friday’s rally and says people need to become aware this priceless, irreplaceable part of Aboriginal history will be destroyed if they remain silent.

He says the depth and age of these artefacts make it a “potential gathering place for Aboriginal resistance against white invasion”.

“We know this is in a part of Sydney over which Pemulwuy was being actively hunted by parties of marines led by Watkin Tench in 1790,” he says.

He says the rally will put pressure on not just the State Government but also the Federal Government as the group looks to give notice for the site to be urgently protected under the Federal Heritage Protection Act.

'All groups are working together': Transport NSW  

A Transport for NSW spokesperson says the area is  being accessed sensitively and it is critical artefacts are extracted delicately and respectfully.

The spokesperson says groups have agreed on a scope to continue works, while minimising the risk to artefacts.

“We have met regularly with the Aboriginal groups to discuss works and protection of the area and we gave all Aboriginal groups the option to supervise all work that is taking place at the site.”

All groups are working together to best manage the artefacts, which the spokesperson says may be used to carry out cultural mapping or as educational material.

The Aboriginal groups were given the choice of leaving the entire find in-situ or to extract the artefacts.