• Traditional Owners are concerned about the impact of streamlined environmental approvals for miners on their Country. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Kimberley Land Council is asking the Western Australia government to strengthen the heritage protection laws in the state, following damage to two significant sites this week.
Keira Jenkins

26 Feb 2021 - 2:23 PM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2021 - 2:23 PM

The Kimberley Land Council wants to see stronger cultural heritage laws in Western Australia, following the damage to a number of cultural heritage sites this week.

BHP reported damage to a registered heritage site in the Pilbara, while Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) is under investigation for a potential breach of heritage laws at their mine site, near Tom Price.

Kimberley Land Council chair Anthony Watson told NITV News he is disappointed in the actions of the mining giants.

"It has broken a lot of trust," he said.

"It's been disheartening in the way they've gone about their actions.

"There needs to be an apology process and a conversation to actually talk with the Traditional Owners and to get this mess cleaned up."

'Asking for change'

It has been less than a year since Rio Tinto's destruction of Juukan Gorge, and Mr Watson said it's unacceptable that damage to significant sites continues to occur.

"I was hoping it would have been a lesson from Juukan Gorge last year," he said.

"They're not being respectful to the Traditional Owners."

Mr Watson said the current heritage laws aren't strong enough, and new legislation, proposed following a review into the Aboriginal Heritage Act in Western Australia, is flawed.

He said any legislation needs to be co-designed with Aboriginal people, and he'd like to see the controversial section 18 - which allows the state government to give permission to companies to destroy heritage sites - scrapped.

"[The laws] are not strong enough," Mr Watson said.

"We've been asking for changes. It's an old Act. There needs to be changes and we need to be at the forefront of those changes."

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