Published Echo News June 30, 2023
THE West Australian Local Government Association has supported a delay in the implementation of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act as far back as December 2022.
WALGA’s phase three co-design submission documents for the new Act – which was endorsed by the WALGA state council on December 23, 2022 – states that “WALGA supports a delay in the start of the Act to allow time for the key bodies under the structure, being the Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services and Aboriginal Heritage Council, for capacity building and to be adequately established.”
WALGA president Karen Chappel said that the organisation is “working constructively with the state government to ensure the implementation of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act is appropriately supported by guidance materials and support from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.”
WALGA’s phase three co-design submission documents featured 23 recommendations, with the 23rd recommendation asking for the DPLH to develop supporting documentation for local governments to better understand their new obligations under the Act.
DPLH was contacted for comment to see if this documentation was supplied to local governments.
Mrs Chappel said that WALGA’s advocacy led to the exemption of activities such as the maintenance of waterways and coastlines to rectify erosion, maintaining existing infrastructure in a way which does not involve ground disturbance beyond that which was originally disturbed in construction, as well as any emergency management activity intended to prevent loss of life.
“WALGA’s advocacy on this matter has resulted in some changes to the activity categories, with consideration now given to many every day and emergency works that local governments undertake,” she said.
The State Government appointed former Hasluck MHR Ken Wyatt to the Aboriginal Heritage Council.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said the Act is ready for implementation on July 1.
He said public workshops and education sessions will be run after the Act is implemented.
“The new process is in with the level of disturbance and the risk of impact or harm,” he said.
“Where there is no Aboriginal cultural heritage present, or no risk of harm, no approval is required.”