Heritage Law Debate Sidetracked

The PKKP Aboriginal Corporation (RNTBC) is recommending that the implementation of Western Australia’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 not be delayed.

The Director of the Corporation’s Land and Heritage Unit Dr Jordan Ralph said debate on the new laws had become sidetracked on issues such as cost and fear of disadvantages to those planning activity on traditional owner lands.

“The Act is not perfect, but it gives greater scope and authority to Aboriginal people to identify, define and manage their heritage. What is needed is for all of us to work together to effectively put the laws into practice,” Dr Ralph said.

“We need to avoid the negativity and hysteria which stemmed from the Native Title movement in the 1990s and ensure the enactment of the new laws protect First Nations Peoples’ Country.

“The PKKP Aboriginal Corporation is not here to create more red tape or to be adversarial, but every day the people we represent feel the loss that happened at Juukan Gorge. We are here to protect the cultural interests of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Native Title Holders and to ensure their important places are protected and able to be passed on to the next generation.”

Dr Ralph said the Corporation’s main concerns with the Act related to the accompanying guidelines.

“The guidelines set new fees and definitions of heritage management activities when establishing and maintaining an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan (ACHMP). Industry, particularly pastoralists, had expressed concerns about interpretation and the scale of the fees.

“As a Corporation we worry that charging industry proponents including pastoralists significant amounts of money to apply for an ACHMP will drive them to define their activities as having less impact than they actually will because of cost, and as a result offer a lower level of protection for cultural heritage,” Dr Ralph said.

Dr Ralph says the Corporation is also concerned that the fees will be going to the Western Australian Government when there is already clear under resourcing of the Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services (LACHS) required to be established by traditional owner organisations under the new laws.

“Under this arrangement, the government will be making more money from the work than the traditional owners and representative organisations providing the heritage services.

“Our time needs to be recognised as just as valuable and highly specialised as any other service provider or knowledge-holder,” he said.

Dr Ralph said the PKKP had simple advice for those worried about the heritage laws.

“Form strong, transparent and trusting relationships with the Traditional Owner corporations or LACHS who operate in your area and negotiate appropriate and strong agreements which make the expectations and obligations of each party clear.

“This is what the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation is doing by negotiating co-management of mining agreements with resources companies and Indigenous Land Use Agreements with pastoralists where we can work together to achieve shared goals and protect and manage Country,” Dr Ralph said.

**Dr Ralph and the PKKP will not be providing further comment or interviews.**


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  • Casey Cahill +61 413 992 195 / casey@counselcomms.com.au
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