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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 562 asked in the Legislative Council on 10 June 2020 by Hon Tim Clifford

Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on

JUUKAN GORGE CAVES

562. Hon TIM CLIFFORD to the minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs:

I refer to the ABC Radio National broadcast on Tuesday, 9 June 2020 at 6.06 pm, in which the federal Minister for Indigenous Australians voiced his support for the protest at Rio Tinto's headquarters.

(1) Does the minister share the views of his federal counterpart that we cannot afford to have any site destroyed?

(2) Does the minister agree with his federal counterpart that Indigenous elders should go out onto country and, I quote —

� make sure that they check on those sites to ensure that there is no further damage done �

(3) If yes to (2), does the minister believe that the onus for protecting sites is on individual knowledge holders?

(4) Given that the federal minister made specific reference to sites destroyed by railway, will the minister consider a review of the Eliwana rail project?

Hon STEPHEN DAWSON replied:

I thank the honourable member for some notice of the question. The following answer has been provided to me by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

(1)–(3) The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs did not listen to the broadcast to which the honourable member referred and, as a consequence, is not aware of the context in which these statements were made. The minister strongly believes that traditional owners need to have a greater say on the protection and management of their heritage. He wants to lessen the role the government plays in decisions around heritage and increase the authority of traditional owners. The proposed Aboriginal cultural heritage act will ensure better protection of important places for Aboriginal people and encourage agreement making between traditional owners and land users, and in so doing will empower traditional owners by prioritising Aboriginal voices in heritage management. It will also provide a process to recognise arrangements that currently exist between many proponents and traditional owners whereby traditional owners have a say on what happens to their heritage. The minister wants impacts to Aboriginal sites limited to the practical extent possible. He is also a great believer in self-determination for Aboriginal people and supports native title groups using their hard-won rights to make commercial agreements with land users. He is cautious about governments interfering in private negotiations by registered native title holders. Traditional owners know their country better than anyone. Any concerns relating to impacts on an Aboriginal heritage site can be reported to the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage. The department also offers a grant program to assist traditional owners in managing their sites.

(4) The Eliwana rail project, like all projects, needs to comply with all approvals processes, including those required by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.