• Protesters are seen during a rally outside the Rio Tinto office in Perth. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people have lodged their submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, saying they fear that Aboriginal culture and heritage is undervalued in Australia.
Keira Jenkins

25 Sep 2020 - 3:58 PM  UPDATED 28 Sep 2020 - 5:32 PM

The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation filed a submission on Friday to the committee investigating the mining blasts that destroyed two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in May.

The submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia detailed the significance of the Juukan Gorge area to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people, as well as their concerns about Rio Tinto’s actions in the lead-up to the blasts.

It comes just weeks after the committee announced it would defer indefinitely a planned site visit to Juukan Gorge due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

PKKP Aboriginal Corporation chair John Ashburton said the submission relays how the destruction at Juukan Gorge has impacted the PKKP people.

“We hope our submission provides a better understanding of our position in relation to the desecration of the Juukan Gorge sites and how this tragedy has deeply affected us,” he said. 

“We believe it will provide some clarity about the events leading up to this shocking act of corporate vandalism to our very sacred site, as well as countering some of the information presented by Rio Tinto, which in our view is, at best, incomplete."

The submission from the PKKP outlines questions surrounding the actions of the mining giant after the Traditional Owners raised the alarm about the threat to cultural heritage if the blast went ahead.

They say Rio Tinto could have done more to avoid the destruction of the rock shelters.

The submission says the PKKP believe that the WA Government could have done more to avoid the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters.

It also outlines fears that Indigenous culture and heritage is undervalued in Australia and the world.

Mr Ashburton said the PKKP people appreciate the gravity in which the matter was being handled.

“We hope this inquiry assists us all in our healing and will pave the way for more open and constructive interactions between ourselves, Rio Tinto and the resources sector as a whole, not only for our people in the Pilbara but others right across Australia,” he said.

“We are driven in our conviction that a tragedy like this should never happen again.”

The Federal Parliament inquiry is due to report by December 9.

Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation trying to prevent destruction of 124 sites in Rio Tinto's path
The Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation has told the inquiry into Rio Tinto's destruction of ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge they are trying to prevent the mining giant from destroying 124 heritage sites on their Country.