State Government should reconsider culture and heritage bill, says NSWALC Chair

State Government should reconsider culture and heritage bill, says NSWALC Chair

August 12, 2009

State bureaucrats still hadn't got the message - that Aboriginal people must control their own heritage and culture, the Chairperson of the State's most powerful Aboriginal organisation, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Bev Manton said today.

Ms Manton said Aboriginal people throughout the State were totally dissatisfied with the proposed latest amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act (Part 6) due to be tabled in Parliament in September.

"It's time that bureaucrats stopped being the exclusive consent authority for both the protection - and destruction - of Aboriginal places and objects ," Ms Manton added.

"It is totally unacceptable that Aboriginal people have no formal and legislated say in the protection of their own culture - and it's not just our culture, but Australia's unique culture".

"Quite rightly Aboriginal people are angry that once again they have been denied a proper role in this process."

Ms Manton said while the Bill introduced fines of up to $1.1 million and a "strict liability" offence to prevent developers and others from damaging Aboriginal objects and sites, current administrative arrangements were worded so that widespread destruction could still occur.

"Not only will it occur - it will occur in ways that see precious few prosecutions and even fewer successful ones."

Ms Manton said while the Federal Government was currently moving to update and tighten the Federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, Australia's first State had been found wanting.

"But we pledge to work with the Government to improve the situation," Ms Manton said.

 After all, it was NSWALC which with its own money jointly funded a more than $200 million program to improve water and sewerage facilities in nearly 60 discreet communities.

"We still want to work co-operatively.

"But our people must be given a role in protecting their precious heritage.

"Already too much of it has been lost," Ms Manton said.

"We know that over 800 consents to destroy have been issued in recent years.

"Aboriginal people say delay the bill, set up an inquiry and properly involve Aboriginal people in a meaningful consultative process," Ms Manton said,