Dear Premier Mark McGowan
Open Letter – Opposition to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill
We bring to your urgent attention widespread Aboriginal opposition to the Government’s proposed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill, 2021 and notify you of its serious breaches of Australia’s international human rights commitments.
We do not believe that the Bill will ‘recognise, protect and preserve Aboriginal cultural heritage’. The Bill does not allow for Aboriginal people to ensure heritage and site protection – without the agreement of the proponent and/or the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Aboriginal people have repeatedly requested improved legal protection of heritage sites, but the Bill is weighted against Indigenous custodians in all processes involving heritage applications to conduct activities that disturb or destroy areas of cultural heritage.
We consider that the Bill breaches our commitments under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights Indigenous Peoples. It fails to meet the protection under the rights that Indigenous Peoples have under the UNDRIP to access and enjoy their cultural heritage. It is also incompatible with Australia’s obligations under the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and is now the subject of an Early Warning and Urgent Action before the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for their review of the Bill.
We draw your attention to the Senate Inquiry A Way Forward report into the destruction of Juukan Gorge which called on the WA Government to improve heritage protections to a standard appropriate to the national and global value it holds.
Respectfully, we request you to withdraw the Bill and ensure the law is co-designed with Aboriginal people to respect human rights and ensure a ‘best practice’ system to protect
Aboriginal cultural heritage in our state.