The development of Australia’s largest Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, built approximately one year ago, is now being branded as ‘cultural genocide’ by various Indigenous Rights groups and activists.
Background of Site
The site is located on Hunter Street in Newcastle West, and was formerly occupied by the Palais Royale building which was demolished in 2008. The Building has been constructed over one of Australia’s most significant Aboriginal Heritage sites.
This development is the largest Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant in Australia and built approximately one year ago. The site was excavated before it was developed and the cost of the development was $2.5 million. The development was approved on the basis that it met all necessary heritage assessments.
The report has stated that the site contains “high to exceptional cultural and scientific significance” and has revealed the site contains over 5700 ancient Aboriginal stone tools with unique stonework and campsite remains. These artefacts date back to between 6716 and 6502 years. This makes the artefacts the oldest evidence of human settlement in Newcastle.
In addition to the ancient Aboriginal artefacts discovered, the report has also revealed the presence of a large array of colonial-era artefacts. This amalgamation of historical pieces has been primarily destroyed through the construction of the Kentucky Fried Chicken building.
Response from KFC
Australian KFC spokesman has stated the company is “Working towards having a graphical representation in the restaurant as well as donating recovered artefacts to a university”. Representatives from KFC have claimed that over the past year they have been engaging with the Awabakal people in relation to the site and honouring both the people and the artefacts.
Response from Aboriginal Community
The distribution of the final excavation report ignited dismay and disgust at the development and its brutal destruction of such a culturally significant site. Members of the Awabakal community stated that the final excavation report “highlighted the lack of rigour in the state government’s assessment of Aboriginal heritage”.
Al Oshlack, a representative from the Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network has expressed outrage at the site. He and his network have taken over 100 cases to court in attempts to protect and preserve significant Aboriginal heritage sites. However, despite Mr Oshlack’s efforts, over 2500 Aboriginal sites have been destroyed, due to the excessive amounts of Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits which are distributed.
These permits authorise developments or works in areas which are deemed culturally significant.
Mr Oshlack believes the development is a tragedy, especially considering the large array of alternatives. If one of these alternatives had been chosen, the severe impacts of the development would have been considerably lessened and the significant cultural artefacts could have been preserved for future generations. Mr Oshlack has expressed a belief that the remaining pieces should be given to the Awabakal community.
Shane Frost, a member of the Aboriginal community, admits that little can be done at this point, however he questions why there are not more regulations aimed at the protection and preservation of Aboriginal Culture and heritage.
Media comment by Greens NSW Heritage spokesperson David Shoebridge:
“This is a tragedy that didn’t have to happen. In their haste to maximise profits, KFC have wiped out evidence of the first human settlement in the Newcastle area.
“This $2.5 million development has destroyed thousands of artefacts of cultural and scientific significance which date back almost 7000 years, highlighting the need to review the way NSW assesses and protects Aboriginal heritage.
“It is inexplicable that planning authorities allowed the building to be constructed for the better part of a year before the excavation report was complete.
“Members of the local Aboriginal community have every right to be outraged by this unnecessary loss of a significant part of their history and heritage dating back almost 7,000 years.
“Corporate greed and negligence has led to the tragic loss of one of Australia’s most significant cultural heritage sites.
“KFC has a moral responsibility to return the surviving pieces to the local Aboriginal community, and to ensure they are preserved for future generations.
“This tragedy is equivalent to knocking down Stonehenge to put up a McDonalds restaurant,” Mr Shoebridge said.