Concerns over changes to Aboriginal heritage sites

Archaeological and anthropological groups are concerned about the WA government's changes to recognition of Aboriginal sites.

Concerns over changes to Aboriginal heritage sites
Indigenous rock art site, Windjana Gorge National Park, Kimberley region,
Western Australia [Credit: Cathy Zwick]
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has moved entries on its Register of Aboriginal Sites, onto a list called 'other heritage places'.

The Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists says anthropologists and traditional owners have not been consulted and there are no legal requirement to protect sites that are not on the register.

The Archaeologists Association's National President Fiona Hook says there is a lot confusion and the government seems to be trying to help the department's Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee.

"We think the approach is to reduce the ACMC's workload which has been tremendous over the last five years or so, given the mining boom and they haven't been adequately resourced to do their job properly," she said.

"Part of this, I think, is to help that process but they've thrown the baby out with the bathwater. It hasn't given the people of Western Australia the ability to actually make comment on what's going on so it's been a decision made by the state government and dealt with administratively. We've had 30 years of past practice and definitions of what would be a site under the Heritage Act which have changed without consultation."

The Chief Heritage Officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs Arron Rayner says there is nothing to be concerned about.

He says the department is trying to improve its processes to provide better protections for heritage.

"All sites are protected whether they're registered or not, some of the other heritage places have been assessed as not meeting the criteria of The Act, so wouldn't be afforded protection," he said.

"All of the information that comes into the department and to the committee goes through an assessment process and that assessment process hasn't changed, nothing has changed, The Act has not changed. The changes have largely revolved how we present information on the state's aboriginal heritage inquiry system. The changes that've been made are as a result of feedback of users of the system. I just want to reassure the community generally and particularly aboriginal people that no heritage records have been lost as a result of this process."

The Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists is discussing the issue tonight with the Professional Historians' Association and the Anthropological Society of WA. 

Author: David Weber | Source: ABC News Website [June 13, 2013]

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1 comments for Concerns over changes to Aboriginal heritage sites

  1. Whilst Mr Raynor assures us that no heritage records have been lost he fails to mention that when a site is placed on the "Other Heritage Places" list it no longer has the protection that sites have under the act. So yes, no records are lost but the site itself will be.

    An appalling situation at present

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