We are disappointed that the government did not consult further on the many changes made to the legislation.

This is surprising to us given Aboriginal Prescribed Body Corporates (PBCs) seem to be central to the operation of the new scheme. We had requested to see a copy of the Bill before now but the Government only released it late last night.

It is curious that the government would introduce Aboriginal heritage legislation that almost no Aboriginal PBC or Native Title Representative Body supports but is supported by Rio, BHP and FMG.

The government’s consultation process has been minimal at best. It is important that we have a chance to see the detail, because it will fall on PBCs to implement most of what the government is proposing.

There has been no details provided by government about funding, expected performance, expected demand on our organization for the services the government mandates that we provide, or whether we will be required to change our current fee structures. We have no certainty.

Of major concern is no one inside the government has provided us with any information on how the scheme will work in practice, or what it will cost to implement. It is a radically new scheme running to some 250 pages of new law and it would have made some sense to sit down and consult with us so we could figure out how this is going to work in practice.

The Bill appears to us to be focused largely on bureaucratic processes and not enough on heritage protection outcomes.

Our concern is that scarce resources will be spent on complying with needless processes that consume significant time and not directed toward actual heritage protection.

It is concerning that cost recovery appears to apply only to charging land owners for expenses related to the approval to damage cultural places. It is not clear how the rest of the long list of responsibilities for PBCs, which include caring for cultural places, will be resourced. It is also disappointing that the government has backflipped on its earlier commitment to provide a right of appeal to Aboriginal people where the minister decides to destroy Aboriginal heritage through the approval of a Management Plan.

This was a cornerstone of modernising the laws. Aboriginal people asked government to fix the legislation to provide better protection for cultural heritage. What we have been delivered is a scheme that outsources low level, high-volume bureaucratic functions to poorly resourced PBCs, and the Minister making unchallenged decisions on whether cultural heritage may be destroyed.

Marandoo

We are pleased that this discriminatory legislation is finally being repealed.

The repeal is a largely symbolic gesture from the government 30 years after it was enacted by the Carmen Lawrence Government. This is because Rio has destroyed or discarded the vast majority of Eastern Guruma’s heritage sites at Marandoo and only plan mining there for a few more years.

By Tony Bevan Acting CEO and Director of Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation