Final consultation on the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020 has been put on hold while the Aboriginal community, key stakeholders and the State Government focus on the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Aboriginal heritage protection reform process has been subject to extensive consultation over the past two years, resulting in broad consensus of key stakeholders, principally Aboriginal people and the mining industry, on the fundamental components and direction of the proposed Bill.
There is widespread agreement that the proposed new statutory Aboriginal heritage regime will better protect Aboriginal heritage in Western Australia. It places traditional owners at the centre of the heritage protection regime and will deliver better outcomes in land use proposals for stakeholders, industry and the community.
Final consultation with traditional owners in communities across the State was due to commence on drafted sections of the Bill in the coming months, prior to the Bill being introduced to Parliament.
Consultation will be rescheduled when the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided and restrictions on travel in Western Australia are no longer required. Work will continue in the interim with key stakeholders before the Bill is released for final public comment.
A review of the State’s current Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 began in March 2018. For more information, visit https://www.dplh.wa.gov.au/aha-review
As stated by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt:
“The McGowan Government’s highest priority is to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal community from COVID-19.
“While it’s disappointing that we have to delay this process, I remain committed to introducing modern legislative reform and establishing a new statutory regime for Aboriginal heritage.
“I recognise this new law to better protect Aboriginal heritage is an important priority for Aboriginal people and face-to-face discussions with traditional owners on their country must be had before the Bill is introduced to Parliament.
“But at this time, this can’t be safely done.
“When possible, I look forward to carrying out public consultation, introducing the final Bill to Parliament shortly thereafter and enabling new Aboriginal heritage laws to make a positive difference for Aboriginal people and the State as a whole.”