Hon Mark McGowan BA LLB MLA

Hon Mark McGowan BA LLB MLA

Premier; Treasurer; Minister for Public Sector Management; Federal-State Relations

Hon Stephen Dawson MLC

Hon Stephen Dawson MLC

Minister for Emergency Services; Innovation and the Digital Economy; Medical Research; Volunteering

    Historic laws passed to protect WA’s Aboriginal cultural heritage

    15/12/2021 8:00 AM
    • New laws to transform the way Aboriginal cultural heritage is valued and protected passed by both houses of WA Parliament
    • Consultation and co-design with Aboriginal people and other stakeholders will continue through next phase of reform 

    Historic laws to better protect Western Australia's Aboriginal cultural heritage - the oldest continuous living culture in the world - have passed State Parliament.


    The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 (the Bill) provides a modern framework for the recognition, protection, conservation and preservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage while recognising the fundamental importance of Aboriginal cultural heritage to Aboriginal people. 


    The Bill repeals the outdated Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 and removes the controversial Section 18 approvals process.


    In line with Native Title laws, the Bill embraces the cultural authority of Traditional Owners who will define what is protected and negotiate agreements with land users to ensure significant cultural heritage is managed and protected.


    The agreement-making approach enshrines the principles of free, prior and informed consent and will transform and reset the relationship between Aboriginal people, proponents and government with respect to cultural heritage management.


    The State Government will convene a working group of Traditional Owners, industry and Government representatives to oversee the co-design process for the mechanisms that will enable the laws to be implemented, including the drafting of regulations, capacity development and detail around the consultation and agreement-making processes.


    Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:


    "Western Australia is home to some of the world's oldest known Aboriginal cultural heritage, and some of the world's most significant natural resources.


    "Finding a balance between the protection of that rich cultural heritage and delivering on the economic potential of natural resources to ensure our State's continuing prosperity is crucial.


    "The new legislation strikes a balanced and respectful approach to Aboriginal cultural heritage management and represents national best practice.


    "It is an historic and significant reform that aligns with the McGowan Government's commitment to support the pursuit of self-determination and empowerment of Aboriginal people across the State."


    Comments attributed to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson:


    "These laws are the result of widespread consultation and will deliver monumental legislative reform, transforming the way Aboriginal cultural heritage is valued and protected.


    "This contemporary legislation places Traditional Owners at the heart of decision-making about the management and protection of their heritage.


    "It is the only Aboriginal heritage legislation in Australia to require Aboriginal people to give informed consent for agreements reached.


    "Parliament's passage of the Bill is a significant milestone in this important reform process - but it is not the end of the process. Consultation with Aboriginal people, industry and the Western Australian community will continue throughout implementation, starting with a co-design approach to the supporting documents that will help enact these new laws."


    Premier's office - 6552 5000

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister's office - 6552 5800