Protesters filled the South Hedland town square last Friday to voice their displeasure at Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson for missing the annual Yule River meeting. The march was one of the outcomes from the on-country meeting, with participants gathering on Friday and marching to Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre where they met with Mr Dawson. “No veto, no bill” was chanted as protesters carried placards showing their stance against the revamped Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill, following the Yule River meeting on Thursday. Nyamal Aboriginal Corporation director Danny Brown said having no representation from Mr Dawson’s office sent the wrong message. “The message he's transcended to the Pilbara Aboriginal people with a non attendance is that this doesn't mean as much to him, where heritage is important it's part of our culture,” he said. “There's no structure in the state of WA for our voices to be heard. “The only way we could do this is by lobbying and canvassing media and doing a march where our voices can be heard and recognized, sending the message we want to get out to government.” Mr Dawson addressed his absence in a meeting with Indigenous leaders at Wangka Maya. “I apologise I could not make it, I have been to Yule River before and I know how important it is,” he said. “To say that I could not come because I was meeting mining companies is a complete lie. “It’s absolutely right to be concerned about Aboriginal cultural heritage and I have engaged with native title head bodies in Broome and in Perth.” Mr Dawson said the Bill was trying to “right a wrong.” “The act we have now is from 1972 and it doesn’t recognise Aboriginal people and it certainly doesn’t recognise Aboriginal people as key players and decision makers at the table,” he said. “What we are trying to do is put systems in place so local people on your land can make decisions and tell us what is important.” Ministerial representation at the meeting has been strong since Labor came to power in 2017, with both Mr Dawson and former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt a regular presence. Mr Wyatt’s Liberal predecessor Peter Collier was strongly criticised for years for never attending the meeting.