Australian Aboriginal Opposition Mounts to New State Heritage Laws

Opposition is mounting from Australian Indigenous groups to draft Western Australian heritage legislation as groups say there is little change to regulations that allowed Rio Tinto to destroy culturally and historically important caves last year. Rio’s destruction of the 46,000 year old Juukan Gorge rock shelters led to a leadership overhaul and a national inquiry into how heritage of the world’s oldest living continuous culture is managed.

The Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance (AHAA), which represents the state’s senior traditional owners, wrote to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson last week to express their legal and cultural concerns over the draft bill, which is set to be introduced in the state parliament later this year, it said.

Western Australia has been redrafting its 50-year-old heritage laws which give the state Aboriginal Affairs minister the ultimate say in whether miners can destroy heritage sites in a process that does not allow traditional owner groups to object. “The bill does not represent ‘best practice’ in the field of cultural heritage management or protection by any form or measure,” the AHAA said in a statement.