Western Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson has said new Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation will look to repeal the controversial Aboriginal Heritage (Marandoo) Act 1992 (WA), despite saying earlier in the week the Act’s future was “yet to be determined”.

Minister Dawson told NIT on Wednesday the Marandoo Act, which exempts Rio Tinto from the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA), was still being considered among other amendments to the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill.

Since NIT reported on Friday allegations from Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation that Rio Tinto signed off on the disposal of heritage material from Marandoo at a rubbish tip in the 1990s, the Minister has indicated a more definitive direction about the Marandoo Act’s future.

“The draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill proposes the repeal of the Aboriginal Heritage (Marandoo) Act 1992,” Minister Dawson said.

“The State Government has been in discussion with Rio Tinto and Traditional Owners about this matter.”

WGAC made a submission to the Juukan Gorge inquiry on Friday publicising allegations of deliberate cultural heritage destruction by Rio Tinto prior to Juukan Gorge.

The proposal from Rio Tinto’s contractor, seen by NIT, that suggests the heritage material be returned to the miner or taken to the Darwin tip was received by an employee of the then Aboriginal Affairs Department.

It earmarks material from more than 10 cultural sites as material that “should be discarded in Darwin”.

Eastern Guruma Traditional Owners, represented by WGAC, say their Elders were “excluded from the decision making” on their own Country and have been left devastated by the discovery of the significant loss.

Minister Dawson highlighted he had “no prior knowledge of the allegations” made by WGAC in their submission to the Juukan Gorge inquiry.

NIT understands Minister Dawson has since reached out to WGAC to organise a meeting to discuss when and how the Marandoo Act will be repealed.

By Hannah Cross