Australian news, and some related international items

Ian Viner, former Federal Liberal Minister condemns Western Australian govt’s push to change Aboriginal Heritage laws

WA reforms destroy sacred indigenous heritage: Ian Viner VICTORIA LAURIE THE AUSTRALIAN APRIL 04, 2015

Fraser government ­Aboriginal Affairs minister Ian Viner has described as “truly ­offensive” and “fundamentally destructive of Aboriginal cultural heritage protection” the West Australian government’s Aboriginal heritage reforms, amid growing opposition to proposed changes.

Mr Viner, who introduced the Northern Territory Aboriginal land rights act into federal parliament in 1976, has weighed into the debate over protection of ­aboriginal sites after a West Australian ­Supreme Court finding that the government was wrong to deregister the land and sea surrounding the iron ore export hub of Port Hedland as an Abo­riginal sacred site.

The state government, through its Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee, had sought to clear the way for multi-million dollar port extensions by removing Aboriginal claims that certain coastal mangroves and seaways were sacred.

The case turned on a controversial requirement, introduced in 2013, that a sacred site could qualify only if religious activity occurred on it.

Justice John Chaney referred the case back to the ACMC, which is tasked with assessing site protection under the Aboriginal Heritage Act……..

Mr Viner said the Barnett government’s bid to rewrite its state heritage laws — in changes enshrined in a heritage amendment bill yet to pass through ­parliament — was bad legislation that would result in the government being labelled a ­cultural pariah.

“The clear intention of the legislation is to seriously restrict the opportunity for Aboriginal participation in the administration of the act,” he said in an opinion sent to the Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance and obtained by The Australian.

“(It would) weaken and limit the protection of heritage places and objects so as to allow more and easier access to land.

“In the interests of good governance and the Aboriginal people of Western Australia and their cultural heritage, and the government not being regarded as cultural pariahs, the bill should be withdrawn.”

Alliance spokesman Clayton Lewis, representing several indig­enous land groups, said that the heritage amendments should be referred to a parliamentary select committee “so the issues can be properly ­examined”.


April 4, 2015 - Posted by | General News

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