The destruction of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura cultural heritage brought sharply into focus what First Nations peoples have long known - that our cultures and sacred sites are routinely destroyed. The loss of the 46,000 year old caves at Juukan Gorge at the hands of Rio Tinto was not an isolated incident, rather an example of the heartbreaking consequences of a legal system stacked against the rights of mob to speak for country.
Despite strong cultural responsibility to protect and care for country and our sites, Traditional Owners currently have limited legal rights to prevent the destruction of our cultural heritage. Western Australia’s cultural heritage laws as they currently stand do not respect our right to self-determination or free, prior and informed consent.
Right now, the Western Australian government is holding a public review into the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill. Although the engagement and drafting process has been running for over a year, the WA government has only allowed for a five week feedback process on the final bill.
Already, a number of Traditional Owners, Aboriginal groups and land councils have indicated that this draft bill does not meet the aspirations of mob to self-determine what happens to their cultural heritage sites, nor does it enshrine principles of free, prior and informed consent.
Nor, as the National Native Title Council points out redress the legislative inadequacies and significant power imbalance that exists between mining companies and Traditional Owners that led to the destruction of Juukan Gorge.
Our people know what country needs, and are the best people to speak for it. Five weeks is not long enough for our communities to properly read, understand and respond to a 201 page long draft bill that will profoundly impact community’s ability to care for country.
Can you call Minister Ben Wyatt and tell him that the window for public consultation on the draft Cultural Heritage Bill 2020 needs to be extended?
Minister Wyatt's office is open from 9am-5pm AWST - that's 12pm - 9pm AEDT, 10.30 - 7.30 ACST, 11am - 7pm AEST or 11.30 to 7.30pm ACDT.
Call him now on 08 6552 5900
Let him know that:
- The draft Bill is the critical outcome of the whole consultation process and it is disappointing that Stage 3 did not include the opportunity for Aboriginal people, representative bodies, heritage professionals and industry representatives to further workshop and amend the draft Bill.
- The risk of rushing this stage is a substandard and unworkable result for everyone. Given that Aboriginal cultural heritage in Western Australia is constantly subject to time and cost pressures that result in harm and destruction, it is essential that drafting a new framework for its legal protection is given adequate time, consideration and the respect that it deserves.
- Stage 3 of the public consultation must be extended by 8 weeks to ensure full participation of Aboriginal communities in Western Australia
Call the minister now on 08 6552 5900