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Fed Govt tight-lipped on Juukan Gorge commitments as heritage reforms funded

Giovanni Torre -

Federal funding to reform Aboriginal heritage protection at a national level has been welcomed, but the Commonwealth Government won't confirm if the recommendations of the Juukan Gorge inquiry will be fully implemented.

The $11 million in funding will be allocated across two years towards what the government described as modernising Indigenous cultural heritage protections under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984.

First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance spokesman Kado Muir said he understood $5 million dollars would be used to support the consultation and co-design process for new Federal legislation.

"The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance is working with the relevant agencies on developing a consultation program for going out and talking to people about what the new legislation should look like," he said.

"That is the point at which you will probably find submissions that say we do not want to see another Juukan Gorge.

"The track record in Western Australia, of course, is not good - there has not been a dip in section 18 applications and they are still continuing to do section 18s in the interim period."

Mr Muir said Federal intervention under section 10 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act had been rare to date.

Opponents of the proposed Lloyd Street Bridge design recently applied for Federal intervention under section 10.

"My understanding is there have been very few section 10s ever granted under the Federal Act," said Mr Muir.

"My family and my mob here have made multiple applications under sections nine and 10 and we have never had any result.

"For example, Windarling had highly significant cultural and environmental sites, which were destroyed for a short-term iron ore project."

Asked if the modernisation would entail the full implementation of the Juukan Gorge inquiry, a Federal Government spokesperson said the budget commitment built on their partnership with the Indigenous Heritage alliance and last year's budget investment of $2.2 million.

"The Partnership with the Indigenous Heritage Alliance takes a national approach to reforming Indigenous cultural Heritage protection and will consider the Juukan recommendations, while adopting a broader national focus," he said.

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