Creative Response to Heritage

At the Past Present Future Forum in Pomona held on 26th Oct 2013, organised by Timeline and hosted this year by Noosa Museum, a new direction was explored with Storyteller and Performer Gail Robinson playing a central role. After each speaker, Gail provided an instant replay of their presentation in poem form.

The poems not only captured the content to the speaker's presentation, but also conveyed something of the feeling and meaning being communicated. It was a real revalation and something that we would like to do again. Enjoy the Past Present Future Forum poems by Gail Robinson here, below.

Timeline’s Director, Steve Chaddock explained the speakers were leaders in their field representing the University of Queensland, Queensland Museum, Noosa Biosphere, and Sunshine Coast Regional Council as well as independent businesses and individuals.

These writings were collected by storyteller and community artsworker, Gail Robinson in response to speakers at Noosa Heritage Forum 2013. 

On the day these works were re-told after each speaker, as an instant point of reflection…like little songs or poetry. 

Gail’s intentions were about capturing the cadence and rhythm of the speaker and connecting emotively with a different part of the brain.





Professor Ian Lilley - Past Present Future 

University of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit


Past is in the present and the present guides the future,

Bums are wearing out Angkor Wat, bums went sliding down Stonehenge

Family links us to place and stories…dairy farms, peg-legs, Railway Pde, 

Ken and Jessie’s farm, cows that kick

Uncle Ken says, “Can’t means won’t try”

Life lessons guide our future.


Place will change

What do we preserve?

And what the cost?

How much is worth the stab of loss?

Imagine it…unbearably dull…people stop caring

Imagine it…mindfulness about the past…learning about who we are

Imagine it…then fight for it!


Fortress mentality conserves monuments and place

Where is community?

Where are the people?

Where is the balance?

The past means different things to different people

Everyone needs to get a bit of what they want…

What do we want?

Can we imagine it?


Reconcile settler and Indigenous past?

Prosper from the knowing?

Australian historians…Australian archaeologists …are they trouble makers?

Or is it just a different approach?

Mindful, be mindful…historical value is not self-evident

History deals with time.

A long-term perspective seeks to understand

Humanity’s place in the Cosmos

Dance to the tune, learn the old steps,

Dance to the tune, learn the new ways

Bums are wearing out Angkor Wat, 

Bums went sliding down Stonehenge

Past is in the present and the present guides the future.



Dr Stephen Nichols - Understanding Queensland’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act

Queensland Government’s Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs 


Cultural Heritage Acts- these laws apply to all of us

Different acts, different Departments

People get confused


Before 1967, there wasn’t really anything

People didn’t really think

Aboriginal people were around who knew

It’s very different now

There’s a Statement of Principles

Around ownership, management and giving back


The Act focuses on places and objects

Places have song-lines, objects have stories

These things are all around us

Shell middens, fish traps, scar trees, rocks, bora rings, art, rock art

They say Tewantin was built out of two large shell middens

These things are all around us


The Act gives some things back

The Act manages with a duty of care

Reasonable and practical

Courts and guidelines, native title

It can be controversial, it can cause angst

There are penalties.


There is another stolen generation

Ancestral remains

at some point in time everything will be returned

It goes to the heart of reconciliation

anger and guilt…

complex issues

anger and guilt and repatriation

The laws apply to all of us.



Dr Andrew Fairbairn - From Burra to Boncuklu: Australia’s distinctive contribution to global heritage practice

University of Queensland – School of Social Sciences Archaeology Program 


Obscure and strange sites gather archaeologists

Charred remains of plants tell us many things

We met around an oak fire

We look around for a grand narrative


Boncuklu is important

It helps us understand a small moment in time

We dig in a dusty Turkish paddock


Buildings on mounds…little clusters of houses

We learn about the people who had lived there

They buried their dead under the floors of the houses

They wore beads around the arms or neck

They made baskets

They made tools and hunted

It used to be a wetland

We look for the grand narrative and this site changed the story


Sometimes it seems as if we are an academic spaceship

a bubble of post-colonial academia


We are reaching out to the community

We are finding other ways to tell the story

Wetlands are in living memory there

Farming practices are still under stress


We respect language…we respect culture

We hold true to the Burra Charter

We share the story of this place with the kids

and through them to the families

and through them to the community

Bottom-up, bottom-up

and we still fill in this grand narrative…

the Neolithic way



Dr Geraldine Mate - New directions for the QM Cultures and Histories program

Queensland Museum


We care for many artefacts, we care for many things.

Provenance, consulting with traditional owners

repatriations…we give back

Ancestral remains and sacred objects

Go back to country


We care for many artefacts, we care for many things

Working, researching and developing

Now we are working on the Book of the Dead

New ways to put it back together

We have hats and letters, butterflies and bags,

There’s machines and furniture, tools and toys, 

We have fingernails and feathers

We care for many artefacts, we care for many things

We try to find a public outcome

This week it’s Ludwig Leichhardt’s diaries

And Gwen Gillam’s dresses.


We care for many artefacts, we care for many things.

We gather the stories…we talk and we listen

stories around objects…stories around the times

stories around donations…

Blogs and twitters and virtual appearances

we challenge curating…we seek to find the middle ground

We care for many artefacts, we care for many things.





Dr Chris Clarkson - New Excavations at Madgedbebe (Malakunanja II): The Rich and Dynamic Archaeological Record of Australia’s Oldest Site

University of Queensland – School of Social Sciences Archaeology Program



It’s a real site… old, old

And incredibly important

There’s a huge fight to stop the mine

To protect, to look after…it’s not just political


Mirrar people, Mirrar heritage

We are developing another story, 

understanding past, long passed

Whose story has currency?

Whose story knows landscape?


The escarpment is in stone country

Savannah plains below

Wetlands, swamps and lagoons

Pandanus forest

And landscape has changed

Overtime landscape changes enormously

Rock art changes

Overtime rock art changes enormously

Paintings of animals change

Overtime animals change enormously


It’s what’s beneath the ground

Light trapped

in sand grains

The rock shelter changes

Overtime the rock shelter changes enormously

The further you go down

the further you go down

Dreaming Beings, shaking the Earth

Press on

Keep going down


Madgedbebe…it’s a real site… 

old, old

And incredibly important




Jeff Lambert - Black, white and shades of Grey

Retired Mapmaker and local Historian


Map-making and romance

Map-making and growing things

Retirement dreams of fishing

Slipped away when writing history


Black and white and shades of grey is writing local history

Rarely is anything what it seems, doubts slip in, opinions flourish

Anecdotal is important and record-keeping

Isn’t always local

Local makes it real.

Volunteers keep the stories alive

We are all built on shades of grey


Little things matter, Traveston or Traverston, Traviston completes the mix-up

But little things matter

People are born in places

People get married in places

People are buried in places


Traveston holds a 142 year old mistake around its name

Was it the map-maker’s fault all along?

Black and white and shades of grey is writing local history

and it just shows where dreams of fishing can lead


Phil Moran – Heritage in the Noosa Biosphere

Noosa Landcare


Biosphere is about community

A balanced relationship between man and environment

It’s about conservation – natural and man-made

It’s about sustainability- that’s a slippery soap

And creative capability- It’s about learning, research, and education


So what will happen with the elections?

Biosphere is about community

So what will happen with the future?

Biosphere is a balanced relationship

And if Biosphere is about community?

I guess the community will work it out


John Waldron - Gubbi Gubbi Gun’doo Yang’ga’man

Blue Sky View for Sunshine Coast Council


This work was about revitalising culture

Bark canoes…the old knowledge was lost round here

So we had to go look for it

We used swamp mahogany, stone wedges loosen the bark

A team worked on the project, finding old ways, re-telling the story

Learning together, learning from others

Carrying fire for future generations


Pettigrew said it took 24 steps to make a canoe

It’s best to get the bark in Spring, and it’s heavier than you think

There’s been a lot of learning, learning from artefacts, making connections

It takes time to learn traditions


This canoe carried culture

This canoe carried fire

This canoe carried disappointment

This canoe taught so much


This canoe carries past

This canoe carries present

This canoe carries future.

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