ABORIGINAL CULTURAL AND HERITAGE CAMPAIGN 

NSWALC's Governing Council has called for the establishment of an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Commission in New South Wales.

As you are aware the State Government is currently proposing to make changes to the current regime for the protection of Aboriginal culture and heritage through the proposed National Parks and Wildlife Amendment Bill 2009.

This legislation is due to be introduced in State Parliament when it resumes in September.

NSWALC believes that while some aspects of the legislation might appear, at face value, to strengthen existing laws they fall well short of the reforms required to satisfy the legitimate concerns and aspirations of our people in their long held desire to be given a truly effective voice in the protection and preservation of our culture and heritage.

In short, we believe the proposed legislation takes one step forward and two steps back in seeking to prevent the ongoing destruction of Aboriginal heritage and culture in New South Wales.

We also believe the legislation, as currently scheduled, will be introduced into the Parliament without adequate or meaningful consultation with the Aboriginal community.

The current laws, and the proposed amendments, do not recognise Aboriginal people as the owners and primary determiners of their culture and heritage.

They have not, and will not, prevent the ongoing destruction of our culture and heritage without fundamental reform to both the underlying principles and machinery provisions of the current and proposed legislation.

NSWALC has set out its concerns in a detailed submission, More Than Flora and Fauna, to the Government on the proposed National Parks and Wildlife Amendment Bill 2009.

A copy of the submission is attached.

It outlines the significant failings of the current system to protect Aboriginal culture and heritage through the current high rate of permits issued for destruction. The Bill, in its current form, will make it easier for such permits to be issued.

It points out the inclusion of Aboriginal heritage in a flora and fauna Act is outdated and paternalistic. NSW is also the only State in Australia without independent culture and heritage legislation.

NSWALC's submission includes specific amendments to the legislation which would increase the protection of Aboriginal culture and heritage but we recognise that tinkering with the current legislation is not a long term solution.

We have decided to publicly release the submission.

We hope its public release will raise awareness both within, and outside of the State Parliament, about the grave concerns we have with the current and proposed regime.

We hope it will lead to a fundamental rethink about the need for an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Commission in NSW which was originally promised back in the 1980's.

Discussion and debate at the recent NSWALC State Conference re-emphasised the importance placed within the LALC network on all of us publicly advocating on this issue.

I commend the NSWALC submission to you and would urge its widest distribution within your LALC membership and beyond.

I would also urge every LALC, either independently or through your Regional Councillor, to publicly support NSWALC on this crucial issue to ensure our collective voice is loudly heard in the State Parliament both leading up to and during the debate on this bill.

Each NSWALC Councillor will be contacting you shortly to discuss how we can all work together on this vital issue to ensure we achieve the outcome we want.

It is generally agreed that we have the best land rights legislation in the world.

NSWALC's Governing Council wants to ensure this campaign results in the best Aboriginal culture and heritage legislation in the world.

 

Bev Manton
Chairperson NSWALC 
10 August 2009