Remembering the mother mission: exploring trauma, cultural heritage values and identity at Mapoon, a former mission village in Western Cape York, Queensland

Sutton, Mary-Jean Nancy (2015). Remembering the mother mission: exploring trauma, cultural heritage values and identity at Mapoon, a former mission village in Western Cape York, Queensland PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.662

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Author Sutton, Mary-Jean Nancy
Thesis Title Remembering the mother mission: exploring trauma, cultural heritage values and identity at Mapoon, a former mission village in Western Cape York, Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.662
Publication date 2015-06-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor Sally Babidge
Paul Memmott
Sean Ulm
Total pages 288
Language eng
Subjects 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology
210108 Historical Archaeology (incl. Industrial Archaeology)
219999 History and Archaeology not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract
In the middle of the night on 15 November, 1963 the Queensland State Government forcibly removed Indigenous families from their homes in Mapoon, a former Moravian (later Presbyterian) mission village in western Cape York, Queensland. This event coupled with the prior mission closure and the successive struggle against the Queensland State Government by Indigenous families to return to Mapoon were experiences that have shaped their collective and individual identity and relationships within and outside Mapoon. These events traumatised Indigenous families that belong to Mapoon. This thesis shows such trauma is still experienced and remembered today by Mapoon families and missionary families and influences how they interact, remember the mission time, and generate cultural heritage values. Mission time heritage in Mapoon is thus a form of ‘dark heritage’.

This thesis is a covenantal archaeological study, documenting the cultural heritage values of Indigenous families and former missionary families who resided in the former Mapoon Mission and their relationship to remembered experiences of trauma and struggle with the Queensland State Government. Temporal focus is primarily the birth and death of the Mapoon Mission from 1891 to 1963 and the struggle for its resurrection by Indigenous families and some missionary families from 1963 to 1975. The thesis also documents the cultural heritage values of Indigenous families and surviving missionary families associated with Mapoon from 2010 to 2014. The thesis draws on different methods within archaeological practice (archival research, oral history, archaeological survey, ground-penetrating radar and interpretation) to document values expressed by Mapoon and missionary families through four case studies. These case studies include the documentation of the Mapoon Mission Cemetery, Mapoon Mission Compound, remains of mission time family homes, and expressions of value in the construction of monuments, commemorative acts and in town planning studies in Mapoon. The results of these investigations have provided new archaeological and historical information on mortuary traditions, cultural practices and interaction between missionaries and Indigenous families in western Cape York.

Mapoon’s mission time cultural heritage is presented in this dissertation as a case study to explore how cultural heritage values are generated and to critique the significance assessment process in Australia. The dissertation contributes to existing research on missionisation in Australia through examining the relationships between missionary families and Indigenous families in Mapoon. In doing so it deconstructs social classifications of missionary vs Indigenous and “white fella vs black fella” as well as colonial representations of identity drawn in current historical and anthropological literature concerning the Mapoon Mission. This study concludes historical trauma from violence and dispossession, including the destruction of one’s home, affects wellbeing and is intricately connected to places of high cultural significance within Mapoon. This research explores how archaeological practice and other acts of commemoration and cultural heritage management has potential as catharsis for redressing trauma experienced in the past and may itself be a process of value creation. In this case study, Mapoon families’ most significant cultural heritage places are predominantly intangible forms of dark heritage interconnected to experiences of historical trauma. These places of experienced historical trauma are also used by Indigenous and missionary families to create and renew collective identity and kinship through archaeological practice, perform narratives and acts of commemoration. These places are also where Mapoon families and missionary families recreate new heritage through monuments and reinterpretation.

The dissertation provides a research contribution through exploring the cultural heritage values of not only Indigenous families but missionary families who resided in the former mission village of Mapoon. Mapoon has been nominated as having potential national heritage value (Mulvaney, 1989). It is the first Moravian mission in Cape York and one of the oldest missions in Queensland. A complete archaeological survey of extant mission time heritage including areas of unmarked graves and cemeteries was undertaken in this study to document national heritage values. This thesis demonstrates through historical research, oral testimony and archaeological investigations the importance of Mapoon’s mission time heritage in Australia and its urgency for protection and further management. This study comments on the complexity of cultural heritage values and significance assessment process and critiques archaeological practice in this process.
Keyword Mapoon
Cape York
Cultural heritage

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Wed, 03 Jun 2015, 12:43:42 EST by Mary-jean Sutton on behalf of School of Social Science