Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Kokatha and the Cold War

Another conference, another abstract .... Andrew Starkey and I are proposing this one for the Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference in December.

The Kokatha and the Cold War: Indigenous and technological heritage at Woomera, South Australia.

Andrew Starkey (Kokatha) and Alice Gorman (Flinders University)

In 1947, the Woomera rocket range was established in the supposedly “empty” desert north of Port Augusta in South Australia. Over the next 60 years, Woomera was Australia’s primary Cold War site, developing missiles and launch vehicles, and participating in US and European military and space programmes. It is still an active launch site. More recently the Woomera Prohibited Area has been opened to mineral exploration, leading to an increase in cultural heritage surveys.

The desert around the Woomera village is the traditional country of the Kokatha. The Woomera Heritage Centre, recently redesigned, separates the history of space technology from both Indigenous and pastoral occupation. In this paper, we examine the intersection of military and space technology with Kokatha heritage in the Prohibited Area. We argue that in order to understand its significance, Woomera must be contextualised as part of early Cold War space enterprises, where launch sites were located in colonised lands heavily impacted by the introduction of disease, dispossession from country, and development. Woomera can be regarded as a cultural landscape created by the establishment of a technological enclave within Indigenous country, with the underlying theme, from 1947 to the present, of nuclear arms development.

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