We fail to see how the new laws passed in WA Parliament in late-2021 can deliver on the State Government’s commitment to better protect Aboriginal cultural heritage, place Aboriginal people at the centre of our heritage protection regime and deliver better decision-making in land use proposals for stakeholders, industry and the community. Particularly as the WA State Government did not provide the bill in its entirety to the Aboriginal community for adequate review.
In the true spirit of co-design, Traditional Owners made repeated requests to the WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to convene a substantive meeting between them and the organisations that support them, industry stakeholders and government representatives. Those requests went unanswered, as were the many requests to see a copy of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 (ACH Bill) prior to its introduction to Parliament.
The reality is that little information has been made available to show how – in practice – Aboriginal cultural heritage will be able to be protected in WA, and it is critical to make the time to discuss and negotiate with those who will be impacted most. This workshop aims to provide a time and place to identify a new way of working as government commences development of policies, regulations and processes to support implementation of the new laws.
The workshop environment will be one of equitable discussion and shared decision-making in the true spirit of partnership.
The new laws will not stop the destruction of WA’s Aboriginal cultural heritage. Many more sites will be harmed or destroyed if we don’t take this historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity to get it right.
And, until the new laws are implemented, there should be a moratorium on any approvals relating to the harm and destruction of significant sites.