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In the 1960s Australian historians were criticized for being the ``high priests'' of a cult of forgetfulness, for neglecting Aboriginal history, and for excluding a whole quadrant of the landscape from their research. In this article, the authors argue that the same criticisms may be leveled at the interpretation of goldfields history. Taking the Goldfields Tourism Region in western Victoria as their focus, the authors show the richness of the Aboriginal side of the goldfields story, and show that their exclusion from this story is not due to a lack of material. On the contrary, the barriers that exclude Aboriginal experiences from goldfields tourism are based on the perception and choice of tourism agencies and managers. The practice of history of the Sovereign Hill Museums Association in Ballarat serves as a case study for this article. The authors argue that the heritage industry has a responsibility to ensure that Aboriginal experiences are not excluded from their interpretation. Just as the writing of mainstream history had for many years dispossessed Aboriginal peoples and kept them out of sight, and out of mind, it is time for the historiography of gold to reappraise its ideology and find a balance that no longer excludes Aboriginal themes that have a legitimate place in goldfields history. There are several ways that Sovereign Hill may present indigenous perspectives as it interprets the history of gold mining in Ballarat and Victoria from 1850. More information can be made available, by such means as a series of publications ranging from books to Web pages and activity sheets for children. Interpretive displays focusing on the specificity of Aboriginal people and gold, centered around the themes reviewed in this article, could be constructed. Aboriginal guides could interpret this rich heritage for visitors to the museum. Aboriginal people were present on the Ballarat goldfields, and elsewhere, in many capacities, as Native Police, as miners, guides, and gold finders, as wives and sexual partners, as farmers and entrepreneurs trading cultural items and food, and as local residents going about their everyday lives, staging corroborees and other forms of interaction with other inhabitants. Many of these interactions could be ``activated'' by Aboriginal people; for example, there is scope for activation of the corroborees staged in Ballarat in the 1850s, of the Aboriginal encounter of the traveling musical troupe as witnessed by Antoine Fauchery, of the trade between Aboriginal people and miners, and of the critical role played by the Aboriginal Native Police in maintaining law and order in Ballarat and other goldfields in the early 1850s.
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Keywords: Aboriginal history; Goldfields; Victoria

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Ballarat, Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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