Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as: Collins, R & McMahon-Coleman, K, Heritage and regional development: an indigenous perspective, in Heritage and Regional Development Refereed Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Regional Science Association International, Beechworth, Victoria, 26-29 September 2006. Proceedings Copyright © ANZRSAI 2006. Individual chapters © the authors 2006. The conference website is available here.


Heritage is important to regional development in terms of promoting a sense of place and a sense of identity for those in the region. Heritage is often expressed through culture and the arts as a means of manifesting a community’s sense of what the community or region is about. For Indigenous communities this is particularly relevant given the lack of social capital as a result of colonialism and displacement. In these communities the value of the Indigenous way of viewing things and sense of place has been subjugated by hegemonic norms. There is a need for Indigenous peoples to find means to retrieve their ways of doing and thinking so they can negotiate a space between their traditional world and the world of the colonisers. The tension between the two worlds is part of the problem for regional development. Yet it is possible that in addition to finding a way for a people to survive into the future, drivers for development possibly of use to both worlds may be revealed. Indeed, as Piner and Paradis (2004:81) suggest, “sustainable development is a holistic system in which three interdependent subsystems interact and influence one another: those of environment, culture and economies”. The focus in this paper is on culture, but the frame of paper includes awareness that these subsystems are interdependent. This paper seeks to explore the interrelationship between an individual’s sense of cultural heritage, the creative ways in which this identity is demonstrated, and the impact that this may have on the region with which the individual identifies. It uses the experience of an Inuit artist, writer, cartoonist and activist to explore the process of walking between the two worlds, and demonstrates that his development as an artist paralleled his people’s development of their homeland. It also suggests that ultimately ownership of the process is a quintessential element in Indigenous development and that without the impetus that motivates development, little will occur. It proposes that art and artistic endeavour is significant in this process. Rather than seeking to be a definitive analysis of Indigenous perspectives on heritage, this paper explores the boundaries of regional science theory.