The WA Government will commit $14.6 million to establish an Aboriginal Empowerment Unit within the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

In an announcement at the National Aboriginal Press Club on Thursday, WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston announced the establishment of the Aboriginal Empowerment Unit as part of the 2022-23 state budget.

The unit will be used to develop and implement its Aboriginal Empowerment Initiative program.

The program aims to ensure mining projects and policies are developed in a culturally respectful way and deliver improved outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Funding will be used to create up to 29 jobs within the unit from 2022-23 to 2025-26, including new Aboriginal liaison officer roles.

Aboriginal liaison officers will be tasked with meeting with Traditional Owners to share information and promote engagement between industry and Aboriginal people.

Speaking at the press club, Mr Johnston said the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage bill would provide WA with a better framework for the management of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage, but acknowledged it wasn’t supported by all Aboriginal communities.

“The new act courts three key focus areas, Aboriginal voices, improved protection and better decisions,” he said.

“Traditional Owners will now be at the heart of the decision making process about protection and management of heritage.

“I acknowledge that many Aboriginal communities and representatives did not support the new legislation, claiming it wavered in favour of mining and economic interests over Aboriginal interests.

“Notwithstanding this difference in point of view we will continue to listen.”

National Native Title Council chairman Kado Muir said he supported establishment of the new unit.