Indigenous groups and the Greens have called on Transport NSW to halt Sydney’s light rail project after Aboriginal artefacts were discovered at a worksite.
About 20,000 artefacts have been found within 100 square metres on the Randwick site, opposite the racecourse, which would be used to stable the trams. Heritage consultants believe another 50,000 artefacts could still be in the ground.
Greens MP and Aboriginal justice spokesperson David Shoebridge, along with Aboriginal groups such as Tocomwall, voiced concerns over the discovery and its potential destruction.
Mr Shoebridge has called on the government to intervene and stop proceedings immediately to allow for the excavation of the remaining artefacts.
“The government must issue an immediate stop work order to halt the destruction of this irreplaceable Aboriginal heritage site,” Mr Shoebridge said in a statement.
“This site should be protected and celebrated, the story it tells about the history of Aboriginal people and its evidence of trade routes and potential first contact makes it genuinely unique.”
Mr Shoebridge said half of the site had already been destroyed, with the rest facing machine excavation in coming weeks if action isn’t taken.
The site contains artefacts from the Hunter Region, prompting Jakub Czastka, a senior archaeologist from Tocomwall, to believe that this was the site of a ceremonial meeting place.
“I would suggest quite strongly that this site is of state significance,” Mr Czastka told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Transport for NSW has acknowledged the significance of the discovery, but has yet to confirm whether it will adhere to the request to stop work. “Archaeological work undertaken in late 2015 and January 2016 identified a high density of Aboriginal artefacts on a specific section of the Randwick Stabling Yard site,” a spokesman confirmed.
As part of the approval conditions, the archaeological work done on the light rail corridor was to be observed by four Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs).
Sydney’s light rail project began in Randwick in February 2016 and is expected to be operational by 2019. The route will service Circular Quay, the CBD and the south east, including Moore Park and the University of NSW. George Street will also be pedestrianised between Bathurst and Hunter Street. – Peter Moon
Photo of Aboriginal artefacts found at the Randwick site courtesy of NSW Greens.