The importance of incorporating Indigenous heritage into Church design. Essay Example


Title: The importance of incorporating indigenous heritage in church design

Date: 28/05/2013


Indigenous heritage is an important and unique art. It is part of Australian cultural heritage and requires great recognition and protection. It includes cultural expressions among people that link them from generations to the next over time. These expressions include relationships with people, beliefs, knowledge, law, land, language and other things that originate from spirituality. Indigenous places are the landscapes, areas and sites that are of importance to the people as part of their law. These places have associated values like spirituality, knowledge and belief system. Communities pass their knowledge, arts, rituals and performances from one generation to another help in preserving indigenous heritage. Communities also protect cultural materials as well as significant sacred sites.

Features and places of indigenous heritage

Land is a core and fundamental factor in the Australian communities in maintaining indigenous heritage (Australian Heritage Commission, 2002). It is therefore the core of church design, religious practice, spirituality and the how it relates to the spirit of the country hence becomes important to the issues that relate to the indigenous people themselves (Rose, 1996).

Belief system is another feature of indigenous heritage. According to Australian religion, belief system is the awareness of a sacred, supernatural or divine existence. Religious demography among the indigenous Australians is not conclusive since no accurate information has been acquired from the census. However, according to the 2006 census, the indigenous population with an affiliation of Christian denomination comprised 73%; 24% didn’t have any religion while 1% was associated with the Australian aboriginal traditional religion.

National parks and other recreational sites associate with indigenous heritage by their features such as art work and rocks. These sites help in associating the sites with dreaming stories. Communities get involved in national parks programs to help in reconciliation and bringing out cultural awareness (Jacobson, Giru Dala Council of Elders & Lamb, 1999). The system of kinship influence language and the way people relate with one another with specific roles and responsibilities attached to them. Kinship also influences marriage decisions. Language is also a vital factor as far as understanding religious values is concerned (Janke, 1998).

Knowledge about sacred sites is acquired through gaining understanding of the law of the communities. An example of such sacred sites in Australia is called Uluru which resembles a rock. These sites can further be converted to shrines for pilgrimage. Songs and dances play a role in indigenous heritage which usually occur in ceremonies. They are passed from one generation to another and help in passage of knowledge about the ancestral heroes (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 1997). It is even more difficult to identify other kinds of sites that are sacred to Australian people. All peoples assign special meaning to the burial sites of their ancestors, but a place being considered sacred varies from one culture to another leaving no universal definition of sacredness.

There are some people who have been given authority to speak on behalf of a country or a particular clan of group of people1. They are sometimes referred to as traditional owners. There are also other people who have a history of involvement with particular places such as mission stations, places of indigenous protest and the custodians with the responsibility of looking after these places and sometimes stories that are linked to the places.


In cases where there is uncertainty over the significance of a site of place, a precautionary approach should be used to ensure the heritage values are maintained and not destroyed. Engagement of indigenous communities, women and children should be central to design and delivery of church design, programs and services. The programs should be accessible to all indigenous people and effectively coordinated through collaboration with governments at all levels. If decisions are made by indigenous communities according to research which has been done, greater achievement in outcome will be achieved.


Australian Heritage Commission (2002). Australian Natural Heritage Charter for the conservation of places of natural heritage significance. Second Edition. Canberra

Australasian Legal Information Institute (1997). Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families,

Jacobson, A. Giru Dala Council of Elders and Lamb, L. (1999). ‘Wunggomalli Model©: a consultative model and database for cultural heritage in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1:51-58

Janke, T. (1998). Our culture our future: report on Australian Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights, Surry Hills

Rose, D. (1996). Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal views of landscape and wilderness. Canberra.

Victorian Indigenous Affairs Framework 2010 – 2013. Retrieved from, on 28/05/2013.