AUSTRALIAN ROCK ART REPORTING
For over two decades archaeologists and other rock art researchers have been working closely with indigenous Australians on cultural heritage projects as research partners (see for example Davidson and colleagues 1995). With some exceptions, prior to the 1980s the situation was more unbalanced, with non-indigenous people dominating many aspects of research. In the 1980s, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were granted more active roles in cultural heritage research and management, leading to the articulation of formal ethics and guidelines by the Australian Archaeological Association and the Australian Rock Art Research Association in the early 1990s.
In the mid-1980s, Aboriginal Australians asked for more direct communication of archaeological research results. Initially, copies of reports, publications and theses were handed to key community members, slide talks were given in communities and excursions to particular locations for on-site presentations were undertaken. Later, these were accompanied by plain English summaries with lots of photographs. Plain English reports, photograph collections and posters tailor made for specific indigenous communities followed, and today these are the norm. In the past few years VHS tapes, CDs and most recently DVDs have been used by many rock art researchers to tell communities about both previous and planned research.
Keep River 2000, a VHS report to the Aboriginal people of the Keep River region, Northern Territory, was the first of these ‘new technology’ communication devices I produced, and although distribution was very limited, it was warmly received. Since then there has also been a proliferation of websites presenting rock art research. Although variable in terms of quality, graphics, scientific accuracy and relevance, websites have the advantage of being highly accessible, reaching scattered indigenous populations, scientific colleagues and the general public reliably and quickly.
The general public and the media, both in Australia and overseas, have enormous appetites for news of rock art discoveries and disputes. Through much of the 20th century the focus was often on new finds in Europe or, occasionally, southern Africa. One of the earliest Australian rock art discoveries to receive media attention dates to 1928 (Basedow 1928).