• Rio Tinto's mining operations at Juukan Gorge destroyed significant cultural heritage in the area. (SBS)Source: SBS
Proposed changes to cultural heritage laws may not be enough to protect significant sites according to an alliance of Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title groups.
Keira Jenkins

18 Aug 2020 - 1:21 AM  UPDATED 18 Aug 2020 - 1:21 AM

The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance say they are not convinced that the proposed reforms to the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act will go far enough to protect cultural heritage in Australia.

But the reforms, laid out in the interim report on the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act, are a step in the right direction, according to the group of Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title groups.

Co-chair of the Alliance, Anne Dennis, said reform of these laws are needed because current laws are failing.

She told NITV News that stronger protections, devised in consultation with Aboriginal people are needed.

"Aboriginal people are the experts, particularly around protecting what’s left of our culture and heritage and Juukan Gorge - the destruction of Juukan Gorge – is really a clear example that those protections don’t go far enough," said Ms Dennis.

"For these protections, we must be consulted as Aboriginal people and really the government is moving to put in place other advisory groups without forming real partnerships with Aboriginal people to protect what's left of Aboriginal culture and heritage."

'Continue to destroy'

Ms Dennis said protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage is essential, not just for Aboriginal people, but for anyone who lives in Australia.

"Our culture and heritage is a big part of every Australian and we have to be able to protect the sites and what's left," she said.

In the wake of the destruction of rock caves at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, Ms Dennis said she fears, without proper consultation on law reform, destruction will continue to occur.

"Without that consultation and development, we'll continue to just destroy that heritage in pockets of our really vast country," she said.

"Juukan Gorge was a good example. 100 kilometres from where I live we've got the Brewarrina fish traps and they're dated 40,000 years old.

"Aboriginal people aren't consulted about how they are protected, revitalised and promoted. There's such significant landmarks to our culture, to our history and to everybody who lives in Australia.

"Really it's about that genuine partnership of us working together with the peak organisations so that we can move forward to protect what we have."

Rio Tinto tells Senate inquiry it could have avoided Juukan Gorge destruction
Rio Tinto has admitted it could have avoided destroying two cultural heritage site at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia's Pilbara region at a Senate inquiry into the destruction of the 46,000-year-old rock caves.