The Kimberley Land Council in Western Australia’s north has called for a complete overhaul of the state’s Aboriginal Heritage Act as a government review of the legislation begins in the region.
KLC acting chief executive officer Tyronne Garstone said the Act was in dire need of a rewrite.
He urged the state’s Labor Government to start afresh rather than amending the current Act piecemeal.
“For many years the Kimberley Land Council has been calling on the WA State Government to make real and positive changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act,” Mr Garstone said.
“The current Act, being from a pre-Native Title and pre-racial discrimination legislation era, is fundamentally flawed and should be repealed and replaced, rather than amended piecemeal.
“The overriding purpose of the legislation should be the protection of Aboriginal sites for the benefit of Aboriginal people.
“Currently, the Act is primarily directed at processes that provide for damage to and destruction of Aboriginal sites.
“Applications to damage or destroy Aboriginal sites are almost never rejected.”
Mr Garstone says the current Act and the way it was administered was unfairly weighted towards proponents, developers and the community at large, rather than Aboriginal people.
Key changes sought by the KLC include rigorous consultation and consent requirements from Native Title holders consistent with the Native Title Act.
Permit holders of mining tenements should also not be allowed to make applications to alter Aboriginal sites.
“This should be a matter for resolution between the relevant miner and Native Title holding group,” the KLC said.