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Need for accommodation puts Aboriginal heritage site at risk

David Prestipino -

Councillors in Kalgoorlie-Boulder have voted to proceed with public consultation for the sale of land in Broadwood, which includes an Aboriginal heritage site, as the mining town faces an urgent accommodation shortfall.

The decision at a council meeting late last month came after a report estimated Kalgoorlie-Boulder required up to 4,000 new dwellings over the next 10 years.

The city has an immediate shortfall of almost 170 properties, and more than 2000 job vacancies are being advertised in the region.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder councillors voted unanimously to begin public consultation for the sale of two lots of land in Broadwood covering a combined 36 hectares, which include a registered Aboriginal heritage site, known as Gubrun Camp.

Local Elder Brian Champion Senior said the heritage site was used by the Kalamaya Gubrun people as a camping area until the mid-1960s and any future development would require an application for a Section 18 consent, which Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti would need to approve.

The minister's decision would be guided by advice from the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Committee and other relevant information.

A WA government spokesperson said the government took the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage very seriously.

"When there is an application for Section 18 consent, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will consider that based on all relevant information available at that time, including advice from the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Committee," they said.

In April 2022, Kalgoorlie-Boulder councillors voted 7-5 against the sale of the land to developers M Group, which would have netted the city more than $9 million.

Mr Champion Sr's son Mark said during public question time at last month's council meeting his father was the last "surviving knowledge holder" for the Kalamaya Gubrun site.

"A previous proposal to sell the land was defeated because my father spoke out," he said during public question time at last month's council meeting.

Elected members previously voted 7-5 in April 2022 against the sale of the land to developers M Group, which would have netted the city more than $9 million.

Mr Champion said it was deeply disappointing the council was now revisiting the issue.

"My father strongly opposes any development of this land, other than recognising its cultural significance to Aboriginal people," he told the meeting.

Any property developer would need to consult with the Marlinyu Ghoorli native title claimants, who have been progressing through the Federal Court since 2017, but are yet to have a formal determination of native title.

The National Native Title Tribunal lists Mr Champion Sr as the lead applicant for the native title claim.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder councillors plan to quarantine up to five per cent of any land sale towards the preservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage on the Broadwood site, which Councillor Terrence Winner said could be as high as $1 million depending on the sale price.

The push for additional housing in Kalgoorlie-Boulder comes amid more than 2,000 jobs being advertised in the region and demand for up to 4,000 new homes in the next decade.

The accommodation crisis saw the council in August approve mining giant BHP's plan for a 1,152-bed camp.

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