Update on Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation

News story
The Aboriginal cultural heritage laws will be restored to the original Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1972, with simple and effective amendments.
Last updated: 9 August 2023
boabs and cockburn ranges

After significant consultation and serious consideration, the Aboriginal cultural heritage laws will be restored to the original Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1972.  

The original laws had been in place for 50 years and will be reverted to with simple and effective amendments to prevent another Juukan Gorge incident.  

Following public workshops, education sessions, and consultation with key stakeholders, the implementation group and advice from the Solicitor General, important amendments to the original Aboriginal Heritage Act will be introduced to Parliament. 

The amendments include:  

  • The newly formed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council will take on the role of the Committee established under the 1972 Act to make recommendations to the Minister. 
  • Proponents and Native Title parties will have the same right of review for Section 18 decisions, with clear timelines and an ability for the Premier to call-in a decision of ‘State significance’, to act in the interests of all Western Australians.  
  • When a Section 18 has been approved, the owner will be required to notify the Minister of any new information about an Aboriginal site. 

These are important reforms to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage and help prevent another Juukan Gorge. 

There will be no requirement on everyday landowners to conduct their own heritage survey. 

The State Government will commence a long-term plan over the next 10 years to undertake heritage surveys of unsurveyed areas in high priority areas in WA, with the consent of landowners. 

The surveys will be centrally held and published by WA Government, and available to view by all land users.  

The implementation group will continue to ensure a smooth transition back to the renewed 1972 legislation.  

For information and updates, visit the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.