THE amended Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 has finally replaced the controversial 2021 Aboriginal Heritage Act.
The amended 1972 Act came into law November 15, weeks after the 2023 Aboriginal Heritage Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill passed parliament.
The 2023 Bill received Royal Assent on October 24, and was proclaimed November 1.
WAFarmers chief executive officer Trevor Whittington said it was worth the wait to allow for the government to get the laws right.
Mr Whittington said under the 2021 Act the community was unsure as to what constituted cultural heritage, and welcomed the government’s survey program to identify significant Indigenous cultural heritage sites.
“They’ve accepted our suggestion that they should actually go out and identify these sites, but the private property holders shouldn’t have to pay for it,” he said.
“Heritage evolves over time, and so one of the other challenges was when does it stop evolving?”
Mr Whittington said there were significant Indigenous cultural sites across the southwest, the great southern region and the Wheatbelt, but remained sceptical as to whether the government would follow through with its plan to survey them all.
“That’s the next big question, I expect the government will lose interest fairly rapidly, because they will have to pay for it – but it’s a community benefit, why shouldn’t they?”
Speaking before the Lower House, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said the state government will undertake a 10-year survey program to identify Aboriginal cultural heritage 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,” Dr Buti said.
“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.
“We listened to community feedback and worked to keep the process for managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage simple.
“The restored Act, with the important amendments, will help prevent another Juukan Gorge tragedy without adding complexity.”
When the 2021 Act was due to be introduced a petition with 29,714 signatures was presented to the Legislative Council calling for a delay in its implementation.