Work with us to help stop the destruction

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Workshop, 18-19 January 2022

Aboriginal people invite Government & industry to co-design a new law to stop the destruction of Australia’s cultural heritage at the inaugural “Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Workshop”

Announcing the “Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Workshop”

The 2020 destruction of 46,000-year-old rock caves in the Pilbara sent shockwaves around the world. It wasn’t the first event of its kind, and it won’t be the last. Australia’s cultural heritage is being harmed or destroyed every day.

The Joint Standing Committee’s report on the destruction was highly critical of the WA Government and its proposed new, controversial Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill. We need a new law that ensures the right balance between heritage protection and economic benefit. Aboriginal people want to sit down with Government & industry to create an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act for WA that will stop the destruction of significant sites without stopping development.

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Workshop”, 18-19 January 2022.

Aboriginal people welcome Government and industry to the negotiating table to get the job done. We fail to see how the proposed ACH Bill (2021) can deliver on the WA Government’s commitment that this legislation will better protect Aboriginal heritage in Western Australia, 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 Government has not yet provided the Bill in its entirety to the Aboriginal community.

Co-design between Aboriginal people, Government and industry is critical.

Co-design is critical to create legislation that genuinely addresses the shortcomings of the past and protects Australia’s precious Indigenous cultural heritage. The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Workshop provides a time and place to co-create a new ACH Act for WA and define frameworks for policies, regulations & processes to support implementation.

Aboriginal people are not feeling heard on areas of key concern, such as informed consent and the right to say no.
In the spirit of co-creation Aboriginal people have made repeated requests to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to convene a substantive meeting between Traditional Owners and the organisations that support them, industry stakeholders and Government. To date those requests have gone unanswered, as have the many requests to see a copy of the ACH Bill (2021).

The reality is that little information has been made available to show how – in practice – heritage will be able to be protected by the owners of Australia’s cultural heritage in Western Australia. It is critical to make the time to negotiate with those who will be impacted most.

The workshop is solution oriented, and outcomes focussed.

This Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Workshop will result in:

  • an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill for WA that will stop the destruction of significant sites without stopping development;
  • the highest possible protection of Australia’s unique and globally recognised cultural heritage;
  • a more equitable position for Traditional Owners in agreement making; and,
  • certainty for Aboriginal people, Government, industry and investors about the management of risk relating to cultural heritage and Indigenous rights protection.

Key focus areas for the workshop agenda (include but not limited to)

  • Co-design legislation strong enough to stop another disaster.
  • A right of appeal that does not give the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the final say over what happens to Aboriginal sites.
  • Remove the reliance on ‘goodwill’ that miners, pastoralists and others will be prepared to reach agreements with Aboriginal people that avoid damaging Australia’s cultural heritage.
  • Address legal and cultural concerns, including meeting the standards set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP]
  • Define ‘best practice’ in the field of cultural heritage management and protection.