As part of a Federal Parliament inquiry into the destruction of the Indigenous heritage sites at Juukan Gorge the Northern Australia Committee is tomorrow holding a public hearing by teleconference with key stakeholders including Rio Tinto, the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia.
Committee Chair, Warren Entsch, said that it was important to find out what happened at Juukan Gorge and find ways to prevent such incidents occurring again.
‘We will be holding extensive consultations with Indigenous stakeholders during the course of the inquiry, and expect to visit the affected sites. To open the inquiry, however, we will be talking to the government and industry stakeholders most concerned with what happened at Juukan Gorge,’ Mr Entsch said.
In its submission, Rio Tinto acknowledged that ‘the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters should not have occurred’. Looking at the need for legislative change, it observed that:
In considering possible changes that should be made to legislative frameworks, contractual agreements and new standards and ways of working, there is a critical and ongoing balance to be struck. On the one hand, it is essential to find more effective and flexible means to escalate and manage concerns regarding the preservation of the unique cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians. On the other, there needs to be a clear and predictable framework to enable long-term investment in, and the efficient operation of, mining projects that contribute so significantly to Australia. In meeting that challenge, governments, as well as the mining industry, Traditional Owners and the wider community all have a vital contribution to make.
The Government of Western Australia stated that ‘the recent destruction of the rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge of the Pilbara region is devastating for all parties involved and was clearly avoidable’. Its submission focussed on the shortcomings of the current Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA) and the proposed reforms to that Act currently being developed. It noted that: ‘In order to achieve protection, conservation and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Western Australia, and to provide a clear framework that enables land users to manage Aboriginal heritage, a fundamental shift away from the current Act is required.’
Programs are available on the Committee’s website.
Public hearing details
Date: Friday, 7 August 2020
Time: 9:00am to 2:00pm AEDT
Location: By teleconference
The hearings will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.