Govt ac­cused of stalling on her­itage sites

Pilbara News - - News - ■ Louise Alling­ham

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.

Pic­ture: Nic El­lis

Some 35 sa­cred sites have been un­law­fully dereg­is­tered since 2012.

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