As the professional offence takers at News Corp and elsewhere bring themselves to repeated rage-gasms over the vandalism of Captain Cook statues and the removal of Chris Lilley in blackface from streaming platforms, they ignore, more or less entirely, the incalculably more important obliteration of cultural heritage taking place in the Australian desert.
A few weeks ago Rio Tinto dynamited the Juukan rock shelters, destroying, in a few minutes, a site of human occupation dating back more than 40,000 years. Gone with the Wind remains available online (Google it!) despite HBO Max’s decision to (temporarily) drop it. But the caves – described as “staggering” by scientists who worked on them – have been ruined for all time.
In a hundred years, when no one remembers whether or not Jonah from Tonga could be downloaded from the ABC, the destruction of the rock shelters will remain an unhealed wound.
Furthermore, as the archaeologist Dr Kathryn Przywolnik says, their ruination wasn’t anomalous but typical of mining giants’ treatment of Indigenous heritage. She lists 36 significant sites excavated in Eastern Guruma country over the last decade.
Twenty-five of them, she says, have since been wiped out. Indeed, before the outcry against Rio, BHP had been scheduled to demolish 40 sites treasured by the Banjima people in the Pilbara.