On 2 September 2020, the WA Government released the long-awaited draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020. This ‘Draft Bill’ is set to replace the outdated Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (AHA), which has long been criticised for its failure to recognise and support processes that appropriately protect Aboriginal heritage.
The proposed new legislation represents a once-in-a generation opportunity to make sure Aboriginal cultural heritage gets the recognition it deserves, and to find the right balance between heritage protection and economic outcomes for all parties.
The Draft Bill released for consultation in 2020 is more than 200 pages long. YMAC’s analysis indicated that, while there are improvements on the existing AHA, there remain many issues of concern to be fine-tuned in the proposed laws.
Submissions for feedback on the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020 closed on 9 October 2020.
Concerns about the consultation timeline on the Draft Bill
YMAC has long advocated that Aboriginal people should be afforded adequate time and the best opportunity to have their say, so that cultural heritage is not lost now or in the future. We are concerned there was not enough time to effectively understand the content of the Draft Bill and what it means for Traditional Owners in our representative regions.
The Draft Bill was originally scheduled to be presented to Parliament by June 2020. Due to the travel restrictions and community closures brought about by COVID-19, YMAC is concerned about the lack of time afforded for proper consultation. This concern remains in 2021.
In March 2020, YMAC wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs requesting a delay to the Draft Bill’s introduction to Parliament.
Since the 2021 WA State Election in March, YMAC has continued to advocate for changes needed to address the imbalance that remains in the draft Bill presented to the public in September 2020.
This activity includes working with the WA Alliance of Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to advocate for Traditional Owners to be engaged in conversations about any amendments that have been made to that draft.
Additionally, in June Traditional Owners and representatives from Prescribed Bodies Corporate in YMAC’s representative regions were invited to attend meetings to discuss the draft Bill.
The agenda included:
YMAC is eager to view the next draft of the Bill. With a clear majority in both houses of Parliament, the need to rush such an important piece of legislation through parliament remains unclear.
YMAC’s previous submissions advocating for Aboriginal heritage law reform: