AHA Amendments Bill replaces community consultation with ignorant executive action

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC has labelled the proposed Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Act 2014 as the most diabolical piece of racist legislation in modern times.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has claimed the amendments will implement better rules to protect heritage sites, cut red tape and, most significantly, “empower Aboriginal people”.

But Mr Chapple said the amendments remove any kind of community involvement in the protection of Aboriginal heritage sites and concentrate all power over these matters into the hands of one public servant.

“It’s an unmitigated disaster for Aboriginal heritage,” he said.

“The current Chief Executive Officer, has been made all powerful."

Mr Chapple said the amendments also made significant, and disturbing, changes to the function and power of the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC).

“Every instance of the word ‘committee’ in the old legislation, in reference to the ACMC, has been replaced with the word CEO,” he said.

“They’ve also removed the requirement for at least one member to have Anthropological expertise in the area of Aboriginal heritage.

“I’ve been pushing the government about the lack of specialists on the committee for years and now that requirement has been scrapped, with the ACMC existing only on a consultative basis at the whim of the CEO.

“The deciding force for whether or not an Aboriginal site is approved or listed on the Aboriginal Sites and Objects register now lies solely with the ‘opinion’ and ‘initiative’ of the CEO.

“There is no community consultation, no one with special knowledge of Indigenous issues or heritage, no one of Aboriginal descent involved whatsoever and essentially, no real protection for anything of Aboriginal cultural value in our state.

The State Administrative Tribunal has been given the power to review a decision but only at the request of a proponent, an Aboriginal person cannot ask for a review or appeal a decision.

This in my view breaches the fundamentals of the Racial Discrimination Act. An appalling piece of legislation,” said Mr Chapple.

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