The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has rebutted the Western Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs’ claim that the State’s new heritage protection laws are “gold standard”, and has supported calls for national cultural heritage protection standards.
On 10 June the ABC reported that WA Minister Dr Tony Buti has accused WA First Nations leaders of “rehashing” concerns about the recently-enacted Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 (WA), and has told them to “move on”: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-06-10/traditional-owners-told-move-on-from-cultural-heritage-concerns/101142238
James Fitzgerald, Legal Counsel/First Nations Engagement at ACCR said:
“In the aftermath of the Juukan Gorge Caves destruction, responsible investors demanded accountability, as well as assurance that new WA cultural heritage protection law would prevent recurrence of similar incidents in the future.
“The new WA Act does not deliver that assurance and maintains key elements of the status quo which allowed the Juukan Gorge Caves destruction.
“Contrary to the recommendations of the bipartisan Juukan Gorge Parliamentary Inquiry, the Act stills empower the Minister to approve the destruction of cultural heritage without any right of appeal to an independent tribunal. This was identified by the Inquiry as a key cause of the Juukan Gorge Caves destruction.
“The Act’s use of regulations to address substantive legislation issues is also poor practice in law-making and is a clear demonstration of the unreliability of this Act.
“The WA Government has shown that it cannot manage to a reasonably acceptable standard its conflict of interest between promoting revenue from mining on one hand, and protecting cultural heritage on the other.
“On these questions, the interests of responsible investors are closely aligned to the interests of Aboriginal heritage custodians.
“The Minister’s quoted statements tend to reinforce the Juukan Inquiry’s recommendation, supported by First Nations leaders, that the Commonwealth should legislate national standards for the protection and management of cultural heritage, co-designed with First Nations leaders. In that case, states could either implement those standards, or the Commonwealth law would apply. “