Western Australia’s new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act comes into effect on July 1.
A one-year delay, until July 2024, has been rushed through on parts of the legislation benefitting the mining and resources sector.
The reforms to the Act allow for greater procedural fairness in decision-making for First Nations communities, and is in response to lengthy, state-wide community consultation.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Tony Buti, claims the guidelines were erroneously published last week and industry stakeholders had expressed concerns about them.
Comments attributable to Greens spokesperson for First Nations and Resources, Yamatji Noongar woman, Senator Dorinda Cox:
“Time and again First Nations people are told to take a back seat while mining billionaires take their land, deny them access, and destroy their sacred cultural sites.
“I’d hoped that under the leadership of a new premier, First Nations voices might be heard and our rights respected in WA, but it’s more of the same state capture. This Government continues the prioritisation of corporate greed over First Nations rights.
“This reform of the cultural heritage laws was meant to give First Nations people input in decisions which affect them, equal to others who already have that right. Instead we are reminded that we are not equal and our rights are not valued.
“Strong cultural heritage protections are crucial to the continuation of the world’s oldest surviving culture. Connection to land and sea Country, our Songlines, our rock art, are all examples of First Nations cultural heritage. They link us to our identity; to our Sovereignty.
“Protecting cultural heritage protects First Nations people, and enriches what it means to be Australian for everyone who shares this land with us.”
Comments attributable to WA Greens MLC, Dr Brad Pettitt:
"These are the consequences of ramming a bill through Parliament while refusing to accept any amendments or heed the warnings of the many dozens of Traditional Owners that made their voices heard.
"The new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act is a flawed piece of legislation. This act denies free, prior and informed consent, denies First Nations people a right to appeal, and gives individual Government Ministers the final say on cultural heritage that they have no knowledge or custodianship over.
"The new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act should have never been passed in the first place and that's why the Greens voted against it, while it was supported without amendment by both Labor and Liberal members.
"Incredibly, the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act has now been made even worse. Once again, the Government is steam rolling First Nations people and letting mining corporations call the shots.”