What’s the problem with the WA Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020?

Good cultural heritage laws protect and manage our precious sacred sites.  They lay out the obligations on developers, such as mining companies, to engage with us so that cultural heritage is respected and preserved.

Even though we have a strong cultural responsibility to protect and care for country, we currently have limited legal rights to prevent the destruction of our cultural heritage.

Despite the destruction of sacred sites like Juukan Gorge, the WA Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill contains no stronger protections than the existing Act and doesn’t redress the power imbalance between Traditional Owners and proponents, such as mining companies, seeking to conduct activities that will harm cultural heritage

Under the Bill it is the Minister, not us, who has the final say on destruction of sacred sites. The proposed laws don’t respect our right to self-determine what happens to our cultural heritage sites, or enshrine important principles of free, prior and informed consent which are set out in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

What must happen?

Our people know what country needs, and are the best people to speak for it. We are demanding the WA Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020 be withdrawn and new laws drafted that properly protect our cultural heritage for now and into the future. We want States and Territories to adopt an agreed set of ‘best practice’ principles to manage cultural heritage. We also need national laws which meet Human Rights standards and uniformly protect significant places across Australia.