The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance (FNHPA) and the Commonwealth government today released a co-authored discussion paper on the Modernisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage.
The release of the paper coincides with the launch of a co-designed national engagement process, that will seek the views of First Nations people as well as other stakeholders including industry and state governments on how to strengthen protections for Australia’s ancient and living Indigenous Cultural Heritage (ICH).
Commonwealth protections for ICH are largely contained in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (ATSIHP Act). Introduced as an interim measure almost 40 years ago, it is yet to be replaced with more comprehensive legislation as originally intended.
Says Cr Anne Dennis, Gamilaraay woman, elected Councillor for North Western Region NSW and New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and Co-Chair of the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance “this process is not about just identifying problems, which to a large extent have already been examined, but about finding real and tangible solutions.”
“First Nations people need to be in control of our cultural heritage, and our free, prior and informed consent should be obtained in any dealings with that heritage.” confirms Cr Dennis.
It is hoped this review will set the ground for long overdue systemic change, as the last three decades have seen at least five previous reviews into both the ATSIHP Act, and the cultural protections provided in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
These reviews have regularly recommended the development of national cultural heritage standards, to ensure a consistent and best practice approach to cultural heritage protections. This includes the most recent Parliamentary
Inquiry into the destruction of Juukan Gorge, handed down in October last year.
“With the discussion paper being released and the national engagement process commencing this week, alongside the Dhawura Ngilan Vision and Best Practice Standards, we will further shape legislative and policy reform that better protects and promotes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage, enshrines self-determination and embeds free prior and informed consent,” says Kado Muir, Ngalia Cultural and Community Leader, Chairman of National Native Title Council and Co-Chair of the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance.
Following the national engagement process, a report will be put to the Minister for Environment and the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance, who will then consider the various reform options, without pre-determining any particular model through a shared decision-making process.
“We have built relationships with industry and finance sections, so there is an expectation to ensure investor money is invested ethically and supports heritage protection. We now look to the federal government to modernise cultural heritage protection and to deliver on certainly and reform.” concludes Mr Muir.
A full copy of the initial discussion paper can be found here on the National Native Title Council website.
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National Native Title Council on E: 0419 228 642 or M: 0419 228 642