YMAC’s opening statement to its Committee Hearing for the Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia on 13 October 2020, contained a proposed Roadmap to Reform.
To address the current power imbalance and inequity in agreement making and heritage protection for Traditional Owners, Governments must:
- Introduce comprehensive Federal and State laws that, embody heritage protection across a range of legislations and ensure successful implementation of agreed reform. These include the Native Title Act (1993), the Mining Act (1978), Local Government Act (1995).
- Legislate consultation rights and the need for Aboriginal heritage to be considered early in a development process and continue to be considered as new information comes to light, both before and after agreements have been made.
- Mandate cultural heritage plans including ethnographic and archaeological surveys with the involvement of Traditional Owners, legislate a clear regulatory framework surrounding agreement-making, heritage decisions and project approvals.
- Ensure Traditional Owners have a greater voice in the management and mining of their land during negotiations and throughout the entire lifecycle of a project, including the right of veto.
- Introduce an independent appeal mechanism for all parties and a more equitable and significantly more rigorous Section 18 equivalent in the proposed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.
- Provide appropriate funding and training to ensure Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) are properly resourced to undertake the necessary work to participate in the new heritage regime in Western Australia.
- And finally, promote the global significance of Aboriginal heritage as an original and irreplaceable part of Australia’s collective cultural heritage and create a clear distinction between heritage protection and the mining approval process.