‘Good faith’ encouraged as WA Indigenous heritage consultation begins
A senior Kimberley leader has urged traditional owners to work in good faith and without discrimination as the Western Australian government continues to implement controversial new heritage laws.
Western Australia’s Indigenous Affairs Minister, Tony Buti, launched the co-design process last week to guide the regulations that underpin the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.
This process will give stakeholders the opportunity to shape the regulations that underpin the Act through three rounds of consultations to be held across Western Australia this year.
Merle Carter, Miriwong Gadjerong’s senior cultural wife, who was named to the reference group in February, said she was confident the law would make a difference.
“The new Indigenous Cultural Heritage Act gives us Indigenous people a voice, an opportunity to talk about what we want to happen to our land,” she said.
“We need to work together – Indigenous peoples and proponents – to come to an agreement regarding the management of the (Act).
“We must find a balance to protect our heritage and include the economic and social interests of our Indigenous peoples and future generations.
The law replaces the maligned 50-year-old Indigenous Heritage Act, though it has not been immune to controversy with prominent Indigenous groups saying it has failed to protect Indigenous heritage and disempowered traditional owners.
Under the law, consultation with indigenous peoples will be mandatory, penalties will be increased and introduce cease and desist, restraining and restorative orders.
Mr Buti said the regulations underpinning the law were as important as the law itself.
“Through the co-design approach, we can be sure that the future workings of the law have been informed by the expertise and knowledge of all those who have a role to play in the protection and management of cultural heritage. aboriginal from every corner of our state,” he said.
“The Act empowers Indigenous peoples to negotiate agreements with land users on how their cultural heritage will be protected and managed.
“The main enablers of this more contemporary legislative framework will be the regulations and other supporting documents that we begin to co-design today.”
The first phase of consultation is due to begin in April.