‘Outdated’ Act leaves many sites awaiting heritage nod
Kalgoorlie MLA Wendy Duncan says the “outdated” Aboriginal Heritage Act has led to a huge backlog of Aboriginal sites waiting to be registered.
On Saturday, the Kalgoorlie Miner revealed the sacred site at the centre of an armed incident near Mt Margaret had not been placed on the heritage register because of a “systems issue” at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
A spokesman for the department also confirmed it had a backlog of more than 6000 sites around WA waiting to be assessed.
Ms Duncan described the issue at Mt Margaret as a “typical situation” under the current Act, which was drafted more than 40 years ago.
“Certainly that is a typical situation, where there didn’t appear to be any Aboriginal sites and people were proceeding in apparently good faith,” she said.
“They (heritage sites) do need to be acknowledged and registered, because if you don’t know about them, you can’t protect them.”
The WA Government has been working towards amending the Act, with an Amendment Bill read into Parliament at the end of November.
Ms Duncan said the outdated Act had left a long list of sites around WA awaiting approval.
“We need to work together to get a good outcome here,” she said.
“There’s no doubt the Act is very outdated and part of the reason why we’ve got this huge backlog of sites.”
However, Ms Duncan said she was concerned the Amendment Bill did not outline a process to consult with Aboriginal people.
“The Bill in its current form doesn’t define how the consultation with Aboriginal people will take place,” she said.
“We were given an assurance that how they would be consulted would be actually covered in the regulations.
“But the regulations aren’t drafted and won’t be until the Bill is passed through the house, so it’s one of those ‘trust me I’m a politician’ situations.”
Ms Duncan said she had discussed these concerns with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier, who had given her “assurances” they would be considered.
Mr Collier said the “long overdue” amendment process had been initiated to improve the “antiquated” approvals process.