‘Out­dated’ Act leaves many sites await­ing her­itage nod

Kalgoorlie Miner - - NEWS - Michael Du­laney

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.

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