Govt accused of stalling on heritage sites
The State Government has been accused, by Greens MP Robin Chapple, of trying to stall reassessment of 35 Aboriginal heritage sites deregistered since 2012.
A Supreme Court ruling last April concluded a sacred site in Port Hedland had been unlawfully deregistered by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee.
“Is it a coincidence that whilst the Government have taken their time, development has continued in some of these sites,” Mr Chapple said.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier denies there’s an attempt to stall the reassessment.
“This process is ongoing,” he said. “Justice (John) Chaney concluded that the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee did not take into consideration matters it should have in reassessing DAA site 22874.
“For this reason, a program of reassessment is considered necessary and prudent.”
Research fellow at the University of WA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management Joe Dortch has been providing cultural heritage management advice on industry and community projects for more than 20 years.
“You can either have a heritage site or you can have a mine, you can’t have both,” he said.
Dr Dortch said the Department of Aboriginal Affairs had little transparency when it came to decisions to deregister sites.
“For us white people that are working in the area, it’s quite difficult — you can imagine what it’s like for Aboriginal people who are trying to negotiate this and are not actually being told, or on very, very rare occasions they’re being told that a site has been deregistered,” he said.
Mr Chapple said changes approaching with the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill could affect more sacred sites.
“I urge the Government to finish this review process before any more harm is done and our traditional owners can rest assured knowing their sacred sites are safe,” he said.
Some 35 sacred sites have been unlawfully deregistered since 2012.