Aboriginal people ignored in processes to protect their heritage and culture

Aboriginal people ignored in processes to protect their heritage and culture

12 August, 2009

South Coast Region Land Councils wanted nothing to do with proposed amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act in relation to Aboriginal culture and heritage protection until Aboriginal people had been properly consulted, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council's elected South Coast representative, Councillor Jack Hampton, said today.

"The State Government plans to table amendments to this act in State Parliament in September.

"And it's supposed to be about protecting our precious heritage and culture - yet one of the basic tenants of our culture, proper and open discussion, has never occurred.  Our people say they have been ignored," Councillor Hampton said.

"Even now all of the power rests with bureaucrats. Aboriginal people have no formal and recognized role in the protection of our own culture and heritage.

"But it is not just our culture and heritage we are protecting - it is Australia's unique culture and heritage."

Councillor Hampton said while some proposals were welcomed, such as massively increased fines for those ever found guilty of destroying Aboriginal sights and heritage, such was administrative arrangements underpinning the legislation that Land Councils were convinced few successful prosecutions would ever occur.

"And  our people point out this is an after-the-event process.  The destruction has already occurred  because bureaucrats are still the sole authority for the issuing of permits to either protect or destroy without any formalized, stipulated involvement  of Aboriginal people.

"Yet in law we, as Land Council members, are charged with the protection of our culture and heritage."

Aboriginal people want the development of an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill and the creation of an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Commission.

"This amended legislation and the introduction of new due diligence guidelines must be delayed until there has been inquiry into the protection of the State's culture and heritage, an inquiry that provided for proper consultations with all Aboriginal custodians.

"Respect us, respect our knowledge.  Talk to us and if this is done New South Wales will end up with more practical, workable and meaningful heritage and culture protection laws.

"If this had occurred we wouldn't be in a situation where in recent years hundreds of permits to destroy our culture and heritage being issued by faceless bureaucrats."