New Bill to deliver better protection for Aboriginal cultural heritage

News story
The McGowan Government is introducing a progressive new Bill that will replace outdated Aboriginal cultural heritage laws and deliver better protection for Aboriginal cultural heritage in Western Australia.
Murujuga Rock Art Boardwalk

The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021, which will be tabled in Parliament today, removes the controversial Section 18 approvals process which currently exists under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.

In line with Native Title laws, the new Bill focuses on agreement making with Traditional Owners to ensure Aboriginal people can negotiate outcomes for projects and opportunities on their lands.

The Bill also embeds the principles of free, prior and informed consent in its agreement making processes.

This means there must be full disclosure of feasible alternative options for proposed projects to ensure traditional owners' consent is in fact fully informed. Consent must be given voluntarily and the process cannot involve any coercion, intimidation or manipulation.

Traditional Owners will also be able to apply to have a really important area made a protected area - the highest protection under the law. Both houses of Parliament will be required to approve the repeal of a protected area or any amendments to reduce the size of a protected area.

The Bill incorporates feedback from more than 100 workshops and information sessions attended by more than 1,400 people, 150 targeted and individual stakeholder meetings and more than 380 submissions.

Introducing the Bill into Parliament will not be the end of this important reform process, with ongoing consultation and engagement with Aboriginal people and other stakeholders to develop key documents that will support the Bill.

The State Government will convene a working group of traditional owners, industry and Government representatives to oversee the co-design process for the required regulations, key documentation and tiers of activity for the consultation and agreement making processes.

For more information on the Bill, visit https://www.wa.gov.au/aboriginal-cultural-heritage-bill-2021

Read full media statement

Page reviewed 17 November 2021