Australian news, and some related international items

Aboriginal Leaders Reject Western Australian govt’s changes to Aboriginal Heritage law

highly-recommended“Speaking with one voice” – WA’s changes to Aboriginal Heritage law rejected at bush meetings, anthropologist Dr Stephen Bennetts. Be careful what you pray for. By proposing to strip away protection for Aboriginal people’s heritage across the board, and throughout the State, the Barnett Government appears to have unwittingly conjured up a strong, united and angry Aboriginal coalition which is now mobilising against the AHA amendments. Crikey, 30 Sept 14  BOB GOSFORD | SEP 30, 2014


At a bush meeting last Friday at Yule River, south of Port Hedland, representatives of all major Pilbara Aboriginal language groups voted to reject the AHA amendments, calling on WA’s Legislative Assembly to form a Select Committee to develop a new framework for reform of the AHA with meaningful participation by Aboriginal people. A Pilbara Aboriginal delegation will also be sent to Perth for talks with Premier Colin Barnett — and also — if necessary, to Canberra, to discuss their concerns with the (de facto) Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Tony Abbott.

The previous day, 400 members of the Kimberley Land Council also voted unanimously to reject the AHA amendments at an AGM held in Jarlmadangah 200km east of Broome, while on Tuesday 16 September, members of Perth’s Noongar community also organised a rally outside WA Parliament denouncing the Government proposals. A WA Government call for submissions on the proposed AHA amendments drew a record 151 responses in August, almost all of them critical of the WA Government proposals.

Critics (including the Law Society of WA) have highlighted numerous shortcomings in the proposed amendments. Whereas previously, the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (comprised of senior Aboriginal people and anthropological and archaeological experts) was responsible for determining the status of Aboriginal sites under the AHA, the current amendments will not only abolish the anthropologist position on the ACMC, but also invest a single Government-appointed CEO — who may not necessarily have experience or expertise in heritage matters — with draconian powers over the fate of WA’s Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The amendments, it is claimed, are also potentially inconsistent with both the Commonwealth Native Title and Racial Discrimination Acts; under s 18 of the Act, a developer proposing to destroy an Aboriginal site has a right of appeal to the Minister, whereas the Aboriginal custodian of the site does not. The specific regulations under which the AHA would operate once the amendments are promulgated by Parliament are still a closely guarded Western Australian State secret. The amendments themselves appear to have been framed according to a wish list drawn up by mining interests, while no meaningful form of consultation over the AHA amendments appears to have taken place with Aboriginal people or organisations.

For Dr Carolyn Tan, in-house legal counsel at Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation and an authority on indigenous cultural heritage protection regimes in various countries, the current WA system is:

… in some ways the worst in mainland Australia (although a bill has recently been introduced into Tasmanian Parliament’s to revamp the State’s current outdated heritage legislation). Victoria and Queensland upgraded their Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation in 2004 and 2006 respectively, but only Western Australia seems to be going backwards in terms of recognising the rights of Aboriginal people in relation to their own heritage.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the current WA Liberal Government record on Aboriginal heritage protection is any worse than that of the previous Carpenter Labor Government; ………

Despite a succession of WA Aboriginal heritage clashes dating back to the celebrated 1980 Noonkanbah protests, Aboriginal opposition to ongoing heritage destruction in WA has until now been severely limited by its highly localised nature, with Aboriginal people often hesitant to speak out publicly about ‘other people’s country’ due to constraints under Aboriginal Law. But by proposing to strip away protection for Aboriginal people’s heritage across the board, and throughout the State, the Barnett Government appears to have unwittingly conjured up a strong, united and angry Aboriginal coalition which is now mobilising against the AHA amendments…….

through its extreme heritage agenda, the Barnett Government has now created a united Aboriginal movement which is again reconnecting with the land rights ideology and traditions of an earlier time.

October 1, 2014 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, Western Australia

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: