JUUKAN GORGE CAVES
562. Hon TIM CLIFFORD to the minister representing the
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs:
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
I thank the honourable member for some notice of the
question. The following answer has been provided to me by the Minister for
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
Eliwana rail project, like all projects, needs to comply with all approvals
processes, including those required by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.