National Native Title Council (NNTC) openly condemns the new Cultural Heritage Act bill passed in WA Government legislation today, stating the bill was not co-designed with Traditional Owners, as required by national best practice standards and recommended by the Juukan George inquiry.
Gundjitmara Djabwurrung man and CEO of NNTC Jamie Lowe says “As we have stated repeatedly, the bill does not make Traditional Owners the decision makers in the protection and management of their cultural heritage.”
“If you want to change a history of heritage destruction to a future of heritage protection, Aboriginal people must have an independent right of review for ministerial decisions, with genuine power to make decisions about heritage sites.” states Mr Lowe.
The NNTC notes a permit system still remains in place for some activities not dissimilar to the Section 18 system that enabled the legal destruction of Juukan Gorge.
The new bill also means Traditional Owners must negotiate a cultural heritage management plan for which their consent is not required, whereas for other activities they are not required to be consulted at all.
A developer can also appeal to the state administrative tribunal over ministerial decisions they don’t like, with Aboriginal custodians for that area not having that an equivalent right of appeal.
“As we have continually communicated, one of the major issues with the current Bill is that it leaves ultimate decision-making power in the hands of the relevant Minister where a proponent or developer and an Aboriginal party cannot agree.” says Kado Muir, Ngalia Cultural and Community Leader, Chairman of National Native Title Council and Co-Chair of the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance continues.
“This will be business as usual on our sacred sites, which leads to the continued destruction and desecration of Aboriginal cultural heritage.” Mr Muir continues.
NNTC will now be calling on key beneficiaries to measure application of the new heritage management regime against the best practice principles from Dhawura Ngilan, to ensure their activities don’t impact heritage sites unnecessarily. It will also continue to appeal to the Federal Government and United Nations.
For Western Australian Traditional Owners’, the demonstration of discriminatory intent of legislation is now real. Yet the likes of the National Native Title Council won’t stop working until its voice is heard, as Australia continues to lose cultural heritage treasures.
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