THE Aboriginal Heritage and Repeal Bill 2023 has moved through into the Legislative Council before debate on the Bill was adjourned until October 10 for parliamentary recess.
The Heritage Bill passed the Legislative Assembly on September 21 after it was debated by the Liberal National opposition alliance and the sitting Labor majority.
Speaking before the Legislative Assembly, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said the amendments made to the Bill are consistent with the opposition’s view of protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage while also ensuring another disaster like Juukan Gorge does not happen again.
Mr Buti said amendments to the Bill included the removal of landowners conducting heritage surveys, with Mr Buti stating the government would conduct its own 10-year heritage survey instead.
“We will develop and implement a 10-year program of Aboriginal heritage surveys in high-priority areas.
“To clarify, surveys in this program will be funded and undertaken by the government through the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage. I also add that all surveys will require the permission of the landowner and will be scoped and undertaken in consultation with the relevant Aboriginal people.
“The survey program will identify the location of Aboriginal heritage sites, revisit Aboriginal heritage sites and known heritage places to remap the boundaries accurately and precisely, and identify locations with no sites of Aboriginal cultural heritage,” he said.
Mr Buti said the amendments agreed to in the Legislative Assembly included giving Native Title parties the same right of review through the State Administrative Tribunal.
“The Bill before us, the amendments, which by all accounts the opposition agrees with and has not opposed, will ensure gag clauses can no longer be used, so they cannot prevent Native Title parties from applying to make submissions to the State Administrative Tribunal or submissions in relation to a section 18 notice,” he said.
Mr Buti said an expert advisory body will also make recommendations to section 18 notices and that the advisory body will also have female and male Aboriginal co-chairs and majority Aboriginal representation, with Ken Wyatt and Irene Stainton some of the first people on the panel.
The Bill passed through after Central Wheatbelt MLA Mia Davies moved a motion in the Legislative Assembly to split the Bill into two, which could have allowed for the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 to be repealed sooner.
Ms Davies told the Assembly the community was still unsure of their obligations and that there is unanimous support for the 2021 Act to be repealed.
“We all agree, including the government, that it needs to be removed. However, we are concerned about the less than seamless way that the new legislation was brought to the Parliament for consideration.
“What we want, and what we are giving the government the ability to move forthwith, is the immediate repeal of the failed Act.
“Although the government will continue to say these are simple and effective amendments, I and other members of the opposition have had the experience of trying to deal with industry stakeholders who have consulted with me over the last few weeks about the development of regulations and guidelines.
“They are still trying to wrap their heads around what it will mean and the consequences of the package as a whole,” she said.
The Bill split was supported by all six members of the Liberal National opposition alliance, while the 42 sitting Labor members voted against.
The Bill moved to the Legislative Council after the third reading was concluded.