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Co-design workshops for controversial Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act coming to the Pilbara

The Pilbara’s Indigenous community will get the chance to voice their concerns and help inform aspects of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act at a series of upcoming workshops.

The Heritage Act was passed by parliament in December and drew criticism for giving the WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister the final decision-making power if traditional owners and proponents cannot agree on a cultural heritage management plan.

The workshops, which begin in Newman on July 25 before heading to the Punmu community, Port Hedland, Roebourne, Onslow and finishing in Karratha on August 5.

Workshops will focus on the tiers of ground disturbance activities that could cause harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage which will determine whether an approval will be required, and whether that should be a permit or a more comprehensive management plan.

The Bill drew criticism from the Pilbara Indigenous community who voted to “reject” the act at the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation’s Yule River bush meeting last year, following outrage over laws which some claim would give traditional owners less power over native title.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said since the Bill was passed late last year, Government had undertaken an initial phase of co-design and have proclaimed parts of the Act that will allow for the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council to be established.

“This next phase of co-design continues our collaboration with Aboriginal people and organisations across the State to ensure we develop clear guidance for traditional owners, land users and the community,” he said.

“These laws are a significant shift in how Aboriginal cultural heritage is managed. It is a vastly improved legislative framework which ensures Aboriginal people are consulted without coercion, to prioritise agreement making and to increase penalties for non-compliance.”

Mr Buti said he encouraged anyone with an interest in Aboriginal cultural heritage to read the documents and have their say.

“Together, we will determine the appropriate controls and guidance to minimise harm to sacred cultural heritage and empower Aboriginal voices ensuring the right people are determining what happens with their heritage,” he said.

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