In September 2021, Senior Traditional Owners from the Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance and others made a formal request to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to review WA’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020, explaining it is incompatible with Australia’s international obligations on racial discrimination.

The request explains that the current Bill is in contravention with Australia’s commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and does not adequately address the structural and historical issues and inequalities which have led to the destruction of cultural heritage in Western Australia.

In response, in December 2021 the UN Committee wrote to the Australian government expressing serious concerns about the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill, including for entrenching “structural racism” in the WA’s law. It said the Bill is incompatible with international race discrimination treaties because it provides too much opportunity for cultural heritage to be destroyed for mining.

The UN letter states that, “The draft bill allegedly fails to respect, protect and fulfil the right to culture of Aboriginal people who strongly oppose it, due to the serious risk it poses to their cultural heritage”.

It expresses concerns about inadequate consultation, the Bill’s appeal mechanisms and the fact is gives the WA minister “overly wide discretion” to approve acts that could damage cultural heritage.