Western Australian State Considering Aboriginal Heritage Protection Bill


Members of Aboriginal groups carry Australian Aboriginal flags while participating in a march against what they say is a lack of detail and consultation on new heritage protection laws, after mining group Rio Tinto destroyed old rock shelters for an iron ore mine last year, in Perth, Australia, August 19, 2021. Courtesy of Gabrielle Timmins / Kimberley Land Council / Handout via REUTERS / File Photo

MELBOURNE, Nov. 17 (Reuters) – The resource-rich state of Western Australia will introduce a bill in parliament on Wednesday to safeguard indigenous heritage in demands for development, 18 months after the legal destruction of sites of culturally significant caves by miner Rio Tinto sparked widespread anger.

The bill, which has been under review for three years, will focus on reaching an agreement with indigenous groups and obtaining full, prior and informed consent for development, the department said. of the Prime Minister of the State in a press release.

But he encountered the distress of indigenous groups who protested against the bill, saying they had not been sufficiently consulted, and that it still leaves the final decision on protecting their heritage in the hands of the government. .

“This is a devastating day for Aboriginal heritage,” said Tyronne Garstone, Executive Director of the Kimberley Land Council.

“Fundamentally, this bill will not protect indigenous cultural heritage and will pursue a pattern of systematic structural racial discrimination against indigenous peoples. “

KLC was one of three groups to issue a statement this week calling for the final decision on impacts to indigenous culture and heritage “to be made by indigenous peoples, not industry or government.”

Western Australia’s heritage laws have been in the spotlight since Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), (RIO.L), with the express permission of the state government, destroyed shelters under rock at Juukan Gorge which showed evidence of continuous human habitation dating back 46,000 years for an iron ore mine.

The rock shelters contained remains of a 4000-year-old hair belt that showed a genetic link to the traditional owners of the area, as well as evidence that they were used as shelters dating back to the last ice age.

Amid a public outcry, three senior executives, including then-chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques, left the company and parliament launched a nationwide inquiry which found regulations needed to be revised for the better. take into account the consent. Read more

Reporting by Melanie Burton; edited by Richard Pullin and Michael Perry

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