13 December 2021
Hon. Dr Brad William Pettitt MLC
I write regarding the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 in anticipation of its potential passage through the Parliament of Western Australia this week.
This Bill was never going to have broad support from First Nations people because it is not centered around the importance of protecting Country and heritage. It continues to embed a racist and capitalist approach focused on protecting industry, rather than a cultural values based approach that’s linked to our identity as First Nations people.
The McGowan Government has misrepresented the way in which consultation has occurred throughout the drafting of this Bill. The so-called consultation process has not been centered on cultural based protocols. Consultation was not undertaken in language and was not linked to elements of our culture.
Furthermore, this Bill relies on legal jargon and foreign terms – tools which are actively used to enable the continuation of mining and the destruction of cultural heritage.
First Nations people have not provided permission for this legislation to proceed.
In the drafting of this Bill, the McGowan Government gave First Nations people a loaded choice between remaining in a place of marginalisation and disparity or having access to money through mining royalties.
This is an example of manufactured consent in action.
Moving forward, I want to see a co-production of the regulations and guidelines. The Government must now consider where it positions its power, given the capital it has used to fast-track the bill. It is now time for the Government to listen to the voices of First Nations people that have not been heard and to put those voices first. The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Workshops occurring in January 2022 provide the McGowan Government with an opportunity to reset its relationship with First Nations people in Western Australia.
Senator for Western Australia