The second phase of co-design to support implementation of the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 has commenced, with the release of a suite of draft documents to be considered by stakeholders at more than 40 workshops across regional and remote communities.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said the McGowan Government was working with Aboriginal organisations, industry representatives and local communities to design key regulations and guidelines that will underpin the new Act.
Matters being co-designed include the tiers of ground disturbance activities that could cause harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage. This will determine whether an approval will be required, and whether that should be a permit or a more comprehensive management plan.
A draft management code has also been prepared to guide proponents on how to assess if a proposed activity poses a risk of harming Aboriginal cultural heritage and protected sites, and how to engage meaningfully with Aboriginal people regarding proposed activities.
Feedback from an initial phase of co-design, which included 16 workshops and 78 submissions, has been used to inform the next iteration of draft guidelines.
Nominations are also currently open to appoint the inaugural Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council comprising two Chairpersons and up to nine members, including a majority of Aboriginal people.
The Council will undertake a range of functions to promote Aboriginal cultural heritage and the role of Aboriginal people in relation to their heritage, appoint Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services (LACHS) and make decisions in relation to permits and management plans.
Once established, it will also endorse the final documents at completion of the co-design process for final approval.
All information – including the draft documents, how to register for workshops or nominate for the Council – are available at https://wa.gov.au/ach-act.
Nominations for the Council close at 5pm on Friday July 22, 2022, with consultation on the draft documents being open until Friday August 19, 2022.
The new laws will come into effect in mid-2023.
As stated by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti:
“After many years of discussion and consultation, Western Australia now has new laws that will afford greater protection for Aboriginal cultural heritage.
“Since the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 was passed by Parliament late last year, we have undertaken an initial phase of co-design and have proclaimed parts of the Act that will allow for the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council to be established.
“This next phase of co-design continues our collaboration with Aboriginal people and organisations across the State to ensure we develop clear guidance for Traditional Owners, land users and the community.
“These laws are a significant shift in how Aboriginal cultural heritage is managed. It is a vastly improved legislative framework which ensures Aboriginal people are consulted without coercion, to prioritise agreement making and to increase penalties for non-compliance.
“I encourage anyone with an interest in Aboriginal cultural heritage, or who regularly develops land or undertakes any form of civil or construction works, to read the documents and have their say.
“Together, we will determine the appropriate controls and guidance to minimise harm to sacred cultural heritage and empower Aboriginal voices ensuring the right people are determining what happens with their heritage.”