Juukan Gorge inquiry-Eyes on NSW

Today, the inquiry into the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites at Juukan Gorge will examine Indigenous heritage protection in New South Wales (NSW), with a public hearing by video conference.

Northern Australia Committee Chair Warren Entsch is concerned by the issues raised by NSW submitters to the inquiry related to both the inadequacies of legislation and the problems experienced by First Nations peoples in protecting their heritage.

‘The Committee is keenly aware of the threat posed to hundreds of cultural sites in the Blue Mountains by the proposed raising of Warragamba Dam,’ Mr Entsch said.

‘Places of significance cannot be allowed to be destroyed without close consultation and the consent of First Nations peoples.’

In their submission, Save the Butterfly Cave Campaign comment on the need for ‘legislation to be introduced that is capable of protecting heritage sites’, and that the ‘process to protect them needs to be streamlined accessible and user-friendly’, as currently legislation offers none of these things.

Gundungarra Traditional Owner Kazan Brown highlights the problems with consultation. ‘It’s like we have no control … we go into these meetings, and there’s no consultation. They just tell us what they’re going to do … They don’t talk with us. They talk at us.’

Beatty Legal comment on the failure of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 based on the experience of the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians. ‘In their case, all of the relevant criteria under the Act were met, the particular significance of the area was established, as was the destructive effect of the mine and the failure of the State law.’

Other witnesses include the Minerals Council of Australia, Gomeroi Traditional Custodians Illawarra LALC appearing alongside the Gundungarra Aboriginal Heritage Association, and the NSW ALC.

A program for the public hearing is available on the Committee’s website.

Public hearing details

Date: Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Time: 9:00 am to 3:30 pm AEDT

Location: by video/teleconference

The hearings will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

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