Heritage reforms a step closer

Glenn CordingleyNorth West Telegraph
Representing the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt sits Mr Richard Aspinall, regional manager for the National Indigenous Australians Agency, speaking is WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treasurer Ben Wyatt and presiding over the panel is Kariyarra Elder Alfred Barker
Camera IconRepresenting the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt sits Mr Richard Aspinall, regional manager for the National Indigenous Australians Agency, speaking is WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treasurer Ben Wyatt and presiding over the panel is Kariyarra Elder Alfred Barker Credit: North West Telegraph/Daneka Hill

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt used his address at the annual Yule River meeting in the Pilbara last week to announce progress on changing controversial and confusing laws surrounding sites considered sacred.

Proposed reforms to the Aboriginal Heritage Act will be available for public comment early next year as part of a draft Bill.

The second phase of the consultation has recently concluded, with Aboriginal groups, community stakeholders, the mining sector and local governments acknowledging the need to replace the existing laws.

Mr Wyatt said legislation would now be prepared by the Government reflecting a new and modern Aboriginal Heritage regime.

Mr Wyatt said the consultations indicated Aboriginal stakeholders wanted to take ownership of managing their heritage and become strategically involved in land-use proposals. He said the proposed reforms would include an improved system for land-use approval that would strike a balance between protecting Aboriginal culture and economic development.

“I remain committed to having a new statutory Aboriginal Heritage regime with the broad support of all West Australians in this term of government,” he said.

“I am very mindful of the previous failed attempts to reform this legislation, and the need to consult widely and exhaustively in order to secure the community support needed to achieve such change.”

The Shire of Broome wants laws surrounding indigenous heritage claims to become more streamlined after a failed bid by the Goolarabooloo to list most of the town centre in 2017. Residents and council officials were worried it had potential to add layers of bureaucracy to simple planning applications and stifle development.

The application was dismissed by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee several months later.

The council wanted a faster and clearer system, including a process know as a Section 18, which requires ministerial approval to develop on listed land.

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