State Government should reconsider revised Heritage and Culture Bill

State Government should reconsider revised Heritage and Culture Bill

13 August 2009

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council's North West Region representative, Councillor Steve Gordon, today called on the State Government to reconsider its proposed National Parks and Wildlife Amendment Bill designed to protect the State's precious Aboriginal sites and objects.

"I urge the Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate Change and Environment, Carmel Tebbutt to back Aboriginal people in this action," Councillor Gordon added.

"I want to let  her to know that my local Land Councils are angry that a regime that continually allows are unique heritage and culture to be destroyed is totally unacceptable.

"It is high time that formal mechanisms were put in place requiring formal consultation with our people before any permit to destroy Aboriginal heritage and culture are issued.

"But even now that won't happen.

"We continue to be only acting after the event, after the destruction has occurred, rather than having in place a regime that favours protection rather than destruction.

"Why do we have permits that allow people to destroy -rather than a system that starts from a viewpoint of protection and then prescribes circumstances that allow development," Councillor Gordon said.

"But this must never occur unless Aboriginal people are consulted initially.  Our views must at last be listened to".

"The only role Aboriginal people currently have is consultative.  We have no right of consent over whether a site gets a permit that allows destruction.  It is bureaucrats who issue these permits - all too readily".

Councillor Gordon said in recent years hundreds of applications for such permits have been sought.

"Tragically, 84 percent of all applications are approved," Councillor Gordon said.

"This is appalling.  It must stop.

"I hope the State Government realises this is a case one step forward, two steps back and they need to step back and reconsider the bill -  scheduled for tabling in September - and accompanying administrative arrangements until proper consultations with Aboriginal people throughout the State have occurred.

"The issue of our heritage and culture is too important to rush, even if it does delay some positive features contained in the proposed new legislation - such as vastly increased fines for the destruction of Aboriginal places and objects.

"Let's try and get it right and for once listen to the views of our people".