Wed, 26/02/2014



HON ROBIN CHAPPLE(Mining and Pastoral)[9.45 pm]: I rise tonight to commend the Parliamentary Education Office for running the successful parliamentary internship program. The parliamentary internship program has been running for 16 years, and offers tertiary students of politics, law and journalism an opportunity to closely work with members of Parliament and their staff on a particular research subject and create a research report. The subject is selected by the student from a list of themes presented by some members of this place, and the students are supervised in collaboration with the respective university. I was fortunate enough to have a young woman called Maddison Barnsby from Murdoch University as an intern in my office during the second semester of 2013. Maddison wrote “The Effectiveness of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972”. After conducting literature reviews, interviews and surveys, the main findings were as follows. The responsible authorities do not seem to be consulting with the relevant people in order to provide Aboriginal sites with the appropriate protection and the appeals process involved is not effective enough to maintain an efficient system within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Section 18 is the most contentious part of the act, and the department has time and again approved the majority of section 18 applications that are sent to it, regardless of the recommendations made by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee. The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee has a complicated job, which is complicated further by its lack of membership. The site recording forms used by the ACMC are no longer effective, as they can actually inhibit the registration of Aboriginal sites. Problems within the department have been shown to come down to ministerial discretion, as well as the staff and their possible lack of relevant qualifications. The DAA does not effectively monitor or enforce the act, and the use of the special defence of lack of knowledge can be reduced with increased accessibility to the act’s due diligence guidelines.

Maddison concluded by offering six recommendations to help remedy the above issues, which are as follows. More resources need to be put into the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in order for it to improve its appeals, monitoring and enforcement processes. The site recording forms need to again be amended so that they are simpler to use and no longer inhibit the registration of Aboriginal sites. Decisions regarding section 18 applications need to involve the department, not just the minister, and the decisions should also be made after detailed consultations with the relevant groups of people have been sought and carried out. The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee needs to increase its membership as recommended by Dawn Casey, especially to statutorily include at least one specialist anthropologist, as the Aboriginal Heritage Act dictates. People who hold senior positions within the department that deal with Aboriginal sites and their assessments should have the relevant qualifications in the fields of archaeology and anthropology. The Aboriginal Heritage Act’s due diligence guidelines should be more widely distributed and promoted.

The unsatisfactory protection of Aboriginal heritage sites has recently become visible again in Port Hedland. The plans for the multi-user outer harbour extension have been drawn up, and some significant information on heritage sites is missing. Better registration and easier access is imperative for protecting sites that, once destroyed, will be lost forever. We have another issue of sites that have been on the register for a very long time now being deregistered. I understand it is a complex research subject and was a challenging task for Maddison. I was deeply impressed by the professional approach that Maddison took to her analysis of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for the work she did in producing this report. I would also like to thank Maddison for the smiling face she brought to my office from time to time. On that basis, I seek leave to table the parliamentary internship report prepared by Maddison Barnsby from Murdoch University entitled “The Effectiveness of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972” and dated December 2013.

Leave granted. [See paper 1255.] (below)

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