Under the news laws, if an agreement on the destruction or management of Aboriginal cultural heritage cannot be made, the final say over what happens to sites will remain with the WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister. That means, if the Minister decides Aboriginal cultural heritage sites can be disturbed, damaged or destroyed, they will be [similar to what occurred with the tragic destruction of rock shelters (or caves) – with evidence of human occupation dating back 46,000 years – in the Pilbara in 2020].
A key concern for Aboriginal people is the lack of appeal or review available when the Minister makes a final decision on the destruction of their cultural heritage. In the proposed Heritage Protection Plan, an independent dispute mechanism would determine the right balance between heritage protection and economic outcomes – a dispute process that enables the voices of Aboriginal people and industry to be heard equally. When in question, the status of ‘Heritage Consent’ would be decided using jointly defined and agreed criteria by Aboriginal people with the knowledge and authority to determine the right balance between heritage protection and economic outcomes at any stage of a project.