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.

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. 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 McGowan Government is already on record committing to a co-design process. WA Traditional Owners want to lead this process by first establishing a co-design framework to facilitate the ongoing management and protection of their cultural heritage under the new legislation.

The workshop environment will be one of equitable discussion and shared decision-making in the true spirit of partnership. It aims to support the first step in what should become a far longer-term endeavour and commitment by all stakeholders.

A key aspect of the workshop will be to first establish an agreed-upon understanding of what ‘co-design’ is (and what it is not). Drawing from best practice approaches undertaken elsewhere we already know that ‘consultation’ does not equate to ‘co-design’, and that legitimate co-design processes require continual collaboration and improvement and ensuring the right stakeholders are involved.

And, until the new laws are implemented, there should be a moratorium on any approvals relating to the harm and destruction of significant sites.