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Media Release
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment & Heritage
Member for Flinders
Greg Hunt MP

26 October 2005

Preserving culture - a world first

Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, today unveiled a state of the art cultural database which is already in demand around the world.

The project began in 1999, when a group of Uluru's traditional owners sat down in the sand and began drawing pictures of how they might preserve their cultural information.

Six years later, they've come up with a multimedia interactive system which observes all cultural protocols, overcomes language differences and is in demand from the Kimberly to Port Augusta, and from Vanuaatu to the USA.

"At first the traditional owners, Anangu, worked with park staff to document and conserve 80 rock art sites which were threatened by visitors, wasp nests, water damage, dust and animals," Mr Hunt said.

"But the project rapidly became a quest to record their age-old unwritten heritage - handed down in Anangu songs, dances, stories and relationships.

"With this new multimedia interactive database, western technology has met Anangu cultural needs in the best traditions of joint management."

The multimedia system is a simple intuitive computer based system, with extensive use of icons and graphics to overcome language or reading difficulties. Most importantly, the database has solved a crucial cultural problem: how to make sure that only the right people view the secret and sacred material and that men's and women's information is kept separate.

"The database has three levels: the public sites, the men's sites and the women's sites, " Mr Hunt said. "Within each site, password protection means that only the right people see the sensitive information."

The database contains information in many ways including digital audio sound tracks, video clips, site plans, photographs, report forms and work forms. The earliest forms date back to the 1920s and the earliest photographs to the 1930s.

100 hours of oral histories have been captured so far. They preserve for all time stories about Tjukurpa (Anangu law), traditional land management practices and memories of Anangu elders.

Anangu Ranger Mick Starkey led the project in collaboration with senior Anangu from the Mutitjulu Community, Anangu Rangers and other Park staff, and a heritage consultant.

"The database is a giant step forward in preserving the World Heritage values of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. We're proud to see worldwide interest from communities wishing to preserve their own heritage in culturally appropriate ways," Mr Hunt said.

Media enquiries:
Kristy McSweeney 0415 740 722

Commonwealth of Australia