Power of the past
Power of the past
What kind of person do you think of when you hear the profession "Archaeologist"? We'd be willing to bet you're not picturing someone like Tami Triffett from Ergon Energy.
Hailing from Julia Creek in Queensland's North West originally, Tami - pictured - is Ergon's Cultural Heritage Coordinator and while her role demands a lot of time dealing with desk-based process and coordination of online documentation, she is as happy (and perhaps probably happier!) to be in the field helping identify a valuable historic site or indigenous artefact.
Tami started with Ergon in 2006, but has seen some fundamental changes in focus since that time in her role.
"Cultural heritage was very new to Ergon when I started and was focussed only on indigenous heritage," Tami said.
"Today we also instruct and advise on the non-indigenous (historic) cultural heritage and address any concerns related to assets outside of Queensland as well."
Driving most of the tools, training and support behind Ergon's cultural heritage responsibilities, Tami can find herself interpreting legislation one day then describing what to look for in the field to an employee or contractor the next.
"I have a love of what I do and a desire to see all Australian heritage recognised, protected and, where possible, conserved or at least documented and recorded."
Almost laconic in her approach on many other topics, Tami is passionate when it comes to the importance of understanding and protecting our past.
"I would really like to increase awareness of what cultural heritage is, the many different forms it can come in and the most likely areas that it can be found," she says, "I want to ensure we can increase awareness to field staff of cultural heritage so they can be, to a certain point, even better 'eyes and ears'."
"It would also be best practice to register our own heritage as the electricity industry has played a vital role in the development of Queensland and Australia and is severely under-represented."
Harm minimisation to sensitive sites or valuable history is a big part of Tami's responsibility.
"Around 85 per cent of our distribution network was already in existence prior to the 2004 indigenous heritage laws.
"With this infrastructure already in place, we currently have to rely on our field staff to identify potential cultural heritage that may be harmed."
The role is, according to Tami, very much a dynamic balance of policing and educating and she takes a positive approach to the job – an attitude driven primarily by a true appreciation of history.
Ask Tami if she fits the usual description of someone doing her role within a large organisation and you get a sense of this.
"I guess you have to be passionate, decisive and be able to effectively navigate all relationships."
"At the same time you probably have to be a bit 'OCD' and have a decent sense of humour."
When the day's cultural heritage work is done though, time with her partner, children and extended family is everything – along with a practical approach to most things in life.
"I'm a country girl who loves to learn new things and hates to pay somebody to do something I can probably do myself, whether that be painting, decking, fencing, concreting or welding," she says with a confident grin.
Does that mean there is a frustrated 'tradie' busting to get out if Tami wasn't Ergon's Cultural Heritage Coordinator? Apparently not:
"I'm an Archaeologist, so I'd always be doing something in the heritage field, working at heritage identification and protection in some capacity."