Noelene Cole

Noelene ColeRole in the Project

As one of the Chief Investigators with expertise in the northwest Queensland study area, Noelene will be involved in the reconnaissance and preliminary assessment of field sites in that study area, participating in the archaeological excavations, helping train Aboriginal field officers in archaeological techniques, and carrying out some oral history interviews. She will also contribute to the preparation of outcomes of the project.

Why She’s Excited About the Project

This is the first large scale, collaborative archaeological study of the Qld NMP. For Noelene it’s also an opportunity to extend community archaeology work in Cape York Peninsula which included projects to record Aboriginal town camps, cemeteries, station camps, NMP camps and the oral histories attached. Her previous fieldwork at Boralga NMP Camp showed the potential for further research, and led to archival research, analysing images of the police in rock art and more fieldwork with Traditional Owners. As well as identifying visible material records of the goldrush and pastoral invasions these and other projects also reveal compelling intangible records – family stories and memories of Aboriginal resistance, survival, resilience and massacres by the police. Meanwhile we are still faced with incomplete official records and unreconciled perceptions of the colonial past. This makes it particularly relevant and challenging to add an archaeological layer to investigating the NMP era and its legacy.

Her Background

Noelene has been involved in archaeological research, consulting and teaching since the 1980s. Although her main interest is Aboriginal rock art research she has also worked (in Australia and sometimes internationally), in cultural heritage conservation and management, community archaeology, oral history projects and historical and museum collections research. Her field projects of the last few years have been mainly at the request of Aboriginal corporations and ranger groups in north Queensland, particularly in Cape York Peninsula.


  • BA, University of Qld (1969)
  • BA Hons (Archaeology/Anthropology), James Cook University (1988)
    PhD (Archaeology/Anthropology), James Cook University (1998)


  • Australian Archaeological Association
  • Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  • Australia ICOMOS (Professional Member)
  • Australian Rock Art Research Association


  • Cole, N.A. 1998 Eel and Boomerang: An Archaeological Study of Order and Variability in Aboriginal Rock Art of the Laura Sandstone Province, Cape York Peninsula, Australia. Unpublished PhD thesis. Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, James Cook University of North Queensland, Cairns.
  • Cole. N.A. 1988 The Rock Art of Jowalbinna. Unpublished BA(Hons) thesis, Department of Behavioural Science, James Cook University of North Queensland, Cairns.

Select Publications

  • Cole, N. 2016 Regions without borders: related rock art landscapes of the Laura Basin, Cape York Peninsula. In J-C. Verstraete and D. Hafner (eds) Land and Language in Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf Country, pp.61-84. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins and Company.
  • Cole, N. in press Land/People relationships and the future of rock art in the Laura Basin, Cape York Peninsula. In L.M. Brady and P.S.C. Tacon (eds), Rock Art in the Contemporary World: Navigating Symbols, Meaning and Significance. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.
  • Cole, N. 2011 Rock paintings are stories: rock art and ethnography in the Laura region, Cape York Peninsula. Rock Art Research 28(1):107-116.
  • Cole, N. 2011 Ancient art and modern Australians: continuity in the Laura art system, Cape York Peninsula. In J. Clottes (ed.), L’Art Pleistocene dans le monde. Actes du Congres IFRAO, pp.1023-1036. Tarascon-sur-Ariege Septembre 2010. Tarascon-sur-Ariege: IFRAO (International Federation of Rock Art Organisations).
  • Cole, N. 2010 Painting the police: Aboriginal visual culture and identity in colonial Cape York Peninsula. Australian Archaeology 71:17-28.
  • Rigsby, B. and N. Cole 2006 (eds) Lamalama Country: Our Country Our Culture Way. Brisbane: Akito and Arts Qld.
  • Cole, N. with G. Musgrave 2006 Colouring stone: examining categories in rock art. Rock Art Research 23(1):51-58.
  • Cole, N. 2004 Battle Camp to Boralga: a local study of colonial war on Cape York Peninsula 1873-1894. Aboriginal History 28:156-189.
  • Cole, N., G. Musgrave, L. George with T. George and D. Banjo 2002 Community archaeology at Laura, Cape York Peninsula. In S. Ulm (ed.), Barriers, Borders, Boundaries. Proceedings of the 2001 Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference TEMPUS Anthropology Museum. Brisbane: University of Queensland.
  • Cole, N. and A. Buhrich 2012 Endangered rock art: forty years of cultural heritage management in the Quinkan region, Cape York Peninsula. Australian Archaeology 75:66-77.

Select Unpublished Reports

  • Cole, N. 2015 Expert Review of Nomination for 2016 World Monuments Watch List. Unpublished report prepared for the World Monuments Fund and ICOMOS.
  • Cole, N. 2014 Rock art Recording and Conservation Project Marpa National Park, Princess Charlotte Bay. Unpublished report prepared for the Yintjingga Aboriginal Corporation and Lama Lama Ranger Service.
  • Cole, N. 2012 World Heritage Proposal for Cape York Peninsula: South-East Cape York Peninsula Rock Art. Unpublished report prepared for the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.