Heritage Act under review

Shannon BeattieNorth West Telegraph
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt.
Camera IconWA Treasurer Ben Wyatt. Credit: The West Australian, Ian Munro

The first round of consultation for amendments to the Aboriginal Heritage Act wrapped up on Friday, June 1, with the comments due to be reviewed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

This first step in what is to be a three-round consultation was all about trying to get an understanding from Aboriginal, industry, and heritage groups about what weaknesses there are in the Act and what the changes could be.

The Aboriginal Heritage Act is the piece of legislation responsible for the preservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage places and objects.

When it was passed in 1972, it was the first legislation of its kind in Australia.

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However, it has remained virtually unchanged in the past 45 years and is now considered to be unworkable and out of date. State Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said a clear weakness is the current Act was formed before native title existed.

“There is clearly an opportunity to recognise traditional owners in the management of heritage, and that is something I expect to be flowing through in the commentary and something I would like to see in the final amendments,” he said.

Mr Wyatt recognised mistakes were made when the former government tried to amend the Act.

“You’re not going to make everybody happy on everything, but you do need support from Aboriginal groups and that just didn’t happen last time,” he said.

It is expected there will be a lot of practical advice around the problems with the current system and how it could be improved from Pilbara-based groups that have ongoing experiences with both the flaws and strengths of the current Act.

The submissions will be looked at and another discussion paper will be produced with more definitive suggestions that will go to the public for comment again.

Mr Wyatt remains confident his Government will have a draft piece of legislation by the end of the year.

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