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Tasmanian Government moves a step closer to implementing new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Protection Act

Callan Morse -

New Aboriginal heritage legislation is a step closer in Tasmania after the Tasmanian government provided an update on the preparation of the state's new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Protection Act.

It comes after the Tasmanian Government completed a review of the existing Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975 in 2021, with a consultation paper on the Government's proposed approach to the new legislation released for public consultation in March of 2022.

Since the release of the consultation paper - to which there was nearly 40 submissions in response - Tasmanian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Roger Jaensch, said "significant progress" had been made towards the development of the new Act, with drafting of the new act well underway.

Submissions, along with feedback received during an earlier consultation process, have been guiding the drafting of the new Act.

"We are continuing to listen to feedback and refine the new Act as drafting progresses, and will be releasing a full exposure draft Bill for public comment early next year, prior to a final Bill being tabled in Parliament," Minister Jaensch said.

The state's proposed new Act will provide clarity around ownership, prioritise the role of Aboriginal people and interests in decisions made under the Act and establish practical decision-making processes and modern mechanisms to better protect and manage Aboriginal cultural heritage in Tasmania.

"The new Act will deliver a modern approach to the protection and management of Tasmania's Aboriginal cultural heritage including by ensuring it is considered early in planning processes," Minister Jaensch said.

"It is critical that we get the detail right to ensure that the new Act is effective and balanced and, most importantly, provides for the contemporary protection and management of Tasmania's unique Aboriginal cultural heritage."

Notably, the new Act will change the role of the existing Aboriginal Heritage Council from an advisory body to a regulatory body responsible for making decisions about the protection and management of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in the state.

Adjustments to Aboriginal Heritage Permits, Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plans and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Agreements are also set to be proposed under the new Act, with an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Register also set to be established.

In acknowledging that it has taken "a long time to get to this point", Minister Jaensch said the government is taking a careful and considered approach.

"As we have seen in other States and Territories, this type of reform is complex," he said.

Minister Jaensch said it is critical that the Tasmanian government "get the detail right" to ensure the new Act is effective and balanced, whilst providing the contemporary protection and management of Tasmania's Aboriginal cultural heritage by Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The release of a full exposure draft is possible as soon as 2024.

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