A calculated plan to destroy cultural heritage 


This week’s Budget Estimates hearing with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs revealed a system geared towards the destruction of Aboriginal cultural heritage and alienation from land. 

The threats exposed yesterday come from three fronts and contribute to a perfect storm of cultural genocide - these are:

  • The 100% approval rate of permits for Aboriginal heritage destruction and damage
  • The more than 110 year waitlist for Aboriginal Land Claims and failure of the Government to progress Aborignal Land Agreements and;
  • The ongoing failure to create stand-alone Aboriginal heritage legislation meaning it is still in the National Parks and Wildlife Act. 

Heritage destruction through the Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits shows every one of 84 applications to harm or destroy heritage in the last year was approved with over 400 approvals in the past 5 years and not a single refusal.

The current backlog on the consideration of Aboriginal land claims is 38,579 claims which is estimated to take at least 110 years to clear. It means almost 3 quarters of the land claims ever made have still not been decided. Since the act began in 1983 there have been 51,830 claims made of which only 3,348 have been approved which represents .065% of all claims made. This delay amounts to a denial of claims with many older claimants dying before their claims are decided.

The new mechanism introduced in 2015 of Aboriginal Land Agreements was intended to deal with outstanding land claims but only 2 of these have EVER been registered. It is a pretend solution to the outstanding number of land claims. 

Once again the project of creating stand-alone Aboriginal heritage laws was kicked down the road with the Minister indicating they would consider a white paper process. In the meantime these laws continue to exist in the National Parks and Wildlife Act, an insulting situation that must be remedied.   

Greens MP and Aboriginal Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“After what we saw at Juukan Gorge, the systems in place to protect Aboriginal heritage are i truth overwhelmingly designed to facilitate its destruction. 

“A system that has a 100% approval rate for destruction and allows backlogs of more than a century for land rights claims isn’t an accident, it’s an intentional part of a project to deny rights and protections to First Nations people. 

“The current Land Rights scheme is not fit for purpose and it’s more likely that claimants will die before their claims are decided than that they will get a  positive result.

“Traditional owners have done significant work to get these applications together and the Government is refusing to provide the resources so they can be assessed in anything like a reasonable timeframe. 

“The project of reforming cultural heritage laws started in 2010 and it’s bloody disgraceful it still hasn’t progressed and these laws still sit in an act that is about flora and fauna. 

“We know the criminal justice system is racist, but so are these systems which are supposed to be designed for First Nations communities but instead deliver for mining billionaires and big developers,” Mr Shoebridge said.

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