Dr Maria Cotter
Academic Project Officer - Oorala Aboriginal Centre
Phone: +61 2 6773 5035
Maria is the Academic Project Officer appointed to work on various teaching, research, and policy related projects to support the academic functions of the Centre. Immediately prior, Maria worked as part of the Oorala Student Support Team where she assisted in the administration of the Targeted Tutorial Assistance Program. Maria’s current association with the Oorala Aboriginal Centre commenced in 2017 when she began to tutor students in the Tracks Tertiary Preparation Program; as well as in undergraduate units in Archaeology, Indigenous Studies, and the Craft of Academic Writing. Maria commenced these Indigenous teaching support roles to fund her current part-time enrolment at UNE in a Creative Writing Practice Doctorate. Before making this return to study at UNE, Maria worked as a graduate archaeologist and Aboriginal cultural heritage specialist, for more than 20 years. With various teaching, research, consulting, and public sector heritage regulation roles undertaken during this period Maria has acquired an in-depth knowledge, well-regarded technical skill, and a unique professional experience of Aboriginal and historic cultural heritage management within New South Wales and Queensland. In 2001, Maria co-edited the book Heritage Landscapes: Understanding Place and Communities, and in 2004, a summary of her work with the Gamilarrray Aboriginal community of north-west New South Wales, documenting their traditional historic and contemporary Aboriginal ecological knowledge as heritage, was awarded the best poster prize at the Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference.
For the three-year period between 2011 and 2014, Maria worked for an Aboriginal owned cultural heritage consultancy. A key function of her role was to assist the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua Peoples (PCWP) document their values and Native Title interests in the landscape of the Hunter Valley. Using geoarchaeological, historical and ethno-ecological research methods, she conducted yearlong research consultancies with the PCWP focused on documenting their cultural heritage landscape values on land subject to mining. She also prepared expert witness reports for use in NSW Planning & Environment Court proceedings relating to mining threats to the cultural heritage values of the PCWP. Likewise, she prepared anthropological and genealogical research materials relating to the PCWP that enabled the first ‘Whole of Country Claim’ across the Hunter Valley to be registered. In light of her work with and for the PCWP, Maria received an Australian Attorney General Scholarship to attend a Native Title Master Class for Anthropologists at James Cook University (JCU). Prior to her work with the PCWP Maria also worked as a Regional Archaeologist in the northeast and northwest branch offices of the Department of Environment and Climate Change (now OEH) for a four-year period. This included being a technical working party delegate advising policy and legal on matters relating to the development and implementation of the 2010 amendments to the Aboriginal cultural heritage provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act [NP&WS Act] 1974. It also included her having day-to-day responsibility for the regulation of Aboriginal heritage across two-thirds of New South Wales. This included ensuring that Aboriginal community stakeholders were appropriately informed and consulted about development matters that had the potential to harm and/or impact elements of their cultural heritage.