In a new Bill to be presented to Parliament, the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 will be repealed and an amended version of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 will be revived.
The critical amendments to the restored legislation from 1972 include:
- The newly formed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council will take on the role of the Committee established under the 1972 Act to make recommendations on Section 18 Notices to the Minister.
- Proponents and Native Title parties will have the same right of review for Section 18 decisions via the State Administrative Tribunal, with clear timeframes 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, a new requirement for the owner to notify the Minister of any new information about an Aboriginal site – an important reform to help prevent another Juukan Gorge.
By repealing the 2021 legislation it means all the extra burdens and obligations placed on landowners will be removed.
This means that all landowners, be they freehold, leasehold, licensee, invitee or citizen, at large have one simple obligation: that is to not knowingly damage an Aboriginal cultural heritage site, which has been the law since 1972.
The work of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Implementation Group – consisting of representatives from industries such as mining, property, farming and agriculture, as well as local government, Aboriginal corporations and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council – will continue to ensure a smooth transition back to the renewed 1972 legislation.