7 September 2017 

Update on Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Reform 

The NSW Government has announced that it will commence a three-month public consultation period on a proposed new draft model for Aboriginal culture and heritage laws in NSW in the second half of 2017. 

NSWALC Chair Roy Ah-See said the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has long advocated for a comprehensive re-write of the current laws as: 

·    There are no guaranteed decision making rights for Aboriginal peoples

·    The system focuses on destruction rather than protection

·    The laws are outdated and appear in the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW) (NPW Act) - all other States/Territories have standalone or updated Aboriginal Culture and Heritage legislation

·    The current system is reactive and doesn't consider Aboriginal heritage before planning decisions are made

·    There are inappropriate and limited definitions of what can be protected 

"NSWALC has continued to advocate for the rights and interests of Aboriginal peoples to be the foundation for workable new laws that are based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," Cr Ah-See said. 

NSWALC did not support the 2013 Government model and made a number of recommendations including: 

·     That Aboriginal peoples must have control and decision making roles

·     That new laws must provide proper protections for Aboriginal Culture and Heritage

·     That new laws should build on existing structures of Land Rights and Native Title

·     LALC Culture and Heritage functions must be recognised and LALCs should play key roles in a new model

·     New laws should establish a State-level Aboriginal-controlled organisation to play key support, strategic and oversight functions

·     New administrative and funding arrangements would need to reflect the increased functions of LALCs and a State level body

·     Any revised Culture and Heritage reforms be appropriately funded by the Government

·     Genuine and meaningful consultations must be had with Aboriginal communities to develop proposals for new laws 

NSWALC will keep the Network informed about the next stages of the reform process to assist the Network and Aboriginal communities to actively engage in this important and historic law reform process. 

NSWALC will provide further advice shortly about upcoming NSWALC Regional Forums on this issue. NSWALC is committed to working with the Network to ensure that any new proposed legislation is supported by Aboriginal peoples, the Aboriginal Land Rights Network and meets NSWALC's Principles for Reform. 

We recognize that there are many views within the Network and Aboriginal communities on these issues. NSWALC is committed to promoting respectful discussion and debate to inform NSWALC's position on new draft legislation. 

This historic reform process, while long-awaited, is crucial to the wellbeing of our communities and ensuring our culture and heritage is protected and promoted for future generations. 

NSWALC encourages all LALCs and members of the Aboriginal community to engage in this important opportunity to improve Aboriginal culture and heritage laws in NSW. 

NSWALC's policy positions, submissions, research papers, consultation reports and fact sheets are available on the NSWALC website: /culture-and-heritage/more-than-flora--fauna.aspx . 

Further information about the Government reform process, previous Government models, and Government consultation to date can be accessed on the NSW Office of Environment

and Heritage (OEH) website at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/achreform/index.htm To stay up to date, please send your contact details to the ACH reforms team at  ach.reform@environment. nsw.gov.au. 

Information about the current laws are available inNSWALC's Site Protection Fact Sheet series available at: /publications/fact-sheets.aspx . If you would like to discuss the proposed reforms, please contact the NSWALC Strategy and Policy Unit on 02 9689 4444 or email policy@alc.org.au