The Federal Government has entered into an historic partnership with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance to strengthen safeguards for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt AM said the new partnership will ensure Indigenous Australians are at the centre of Indigenous Heritage planning.
“The First Nationals Heritage Protection Alliance partnership will develop options to improve the laws, policies and processes that promote and protect our unique indigenous heritage,” Minister Ley said.
“Key to achieving success, will be engagement with states and territories, indigenous Australians, industry and local communities to lift the standard of Indigenous cultural heritage protection.
At this stage, Minister Ley said, Indigenous Heritage Protection is a complex interaction of state, territory and commonwealth law and “it needs to be addressed through a national conversation”.
The First Nationals Heritage Protection Alliance currently represents more than 30 Indigenous stakeholder groups and will consult with many others throughout the process.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said Indigenous Australians should have the right to determine the heritage that is important to them, the ability to access applicable policies and laws to safeguard that heritage, and the choice of how they generate revenue on their land.
“As we look to modernise Indigenous protection it is fundamentally important that we are working in partnership with Indigenous Australians and recognising the rights of Traditional Owners to manage their land and Heritage as they deem fit.”
Mr Kado Muir, Ngalia Cultural and Community Leader, Chairman of National Native Title Council and Co-Chair of the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance welcomes the partnership.
“It is important that our Cultural Heritage Places are recognised and protected on the basis of inherent cultural heritage values, and not as an element of land access and development approvals.” Kado Muir said.
The partnership will conduct a range of formal consultations before developing options to be present to the Australian Government to strengthen Indigenous Heritage safeguards.
The Greens have called on the Western Australian Government to delay its Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill until the national standard is agreed to by the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance.
Yamatji Noongar woman and Greens Senator for WA Dorinda Cox said the national body will establish a true co-design process for law reform that will genuinely protect cultural heritage.
“If the Western Australian Government were serious about co-designing reformative cultural heritage, then they must adopt this process for establishing a national heritage standard,” Senator Cox said.
“We need Federal oversight to stop the States from running rampant over cultural heritage sites for what is in the best interest of the State. There must be a balance.”
The Greens spokesperson for Justice and First Nations: Gunnai, Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung Senator Lidia Thorpe said the Senate Inquiry into the destruction of the Juukan Gorge was clear: we need a national framework for First Nations heritage protection.
“First Nations people deserve the right to self-determine our own destiny, which means making decisions for ourselves, which we know work. The McGowan Government must listen to the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance and follow their lead.”