Legislation drafted in the early 1970s that guides the way the State protects its Aboriginal heritage will be amended.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier said the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014 proposed modest changes to ensure Western Australia’s Aboriginal heritage could be properly protected more effectively and efficiently.
“The current Act is outdated. It was drafted more than 40 years ago, before native title gave traditional owners the right in law to speak for their country,” Mr Collier said.
“The changes are designed to improve efficiency in a system which is struggling under the weight of an antiquated approvals process, while at the same time protecting Aboriginal sites.”
The key reforms include:
Increased penalties for those who damage or destroy Aboriginal heritage, including the possibility of prison time
The ability for court-ordered remediation for those who damage Aboriginal heritage
An extension to the time available to prosecute, from one year to five years
The CEO of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) taking over responsibility for evaluating the significance of Aboriginal heritage places and objects. In doing so, the CEO will be required to take into account the views of the Aboriginal people who are entitled to speak for the country which is the subject of this process
Streamlined processes that allow the CEO to issue declarations that no sites exist in particular areas, and permits to use land where no sites will be affected
The ability for permits to be transferred without the need for new applications
The ability for DAA to recover costs for services provided under the Act.
Consultation on the draft Bill guided changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014.
“These changes are important, long overdue and will ensure this legislation can respond to the contemporary needs of Aboriginal people, government and industry,” the Minister said.
Minister’s office - 6552 6300