• A farmer who partially destroyed a Victorian Aboriginal site near Lake Bolac says it was a "huge mistake" (NITV/The Point)Source: NITV/The Point
State-based Indigenous organisations agree a national standard is needed for better cultural heritage protection of significant and sacred sites.
Stephanie Corsetti

14 Apr 2021 - 10:57 PM  UPDATED 14 Apr 2021 - 10:57 PM

The loss of Aboriginal siginficant and sacred sites across the continent has prompted calls for stronger cultural heritage protections and a national standard to keep the locations preserved.

In regional Victoria, the Eastern Maar and Djab Wurrung people have been devastated over harm to a 1500 year-old stone arrangement at Lake Bolac over Easter. 

In South Australia, mining activities have threatened Lake Torres, another well known culturally significant Aboriginal site. 

Keith Thomas from the South Australian Native Title Services recently told NITV News that a national approach would give proper recogntiion to Traditional Owners

"There should be greater recognition of Aboriginal culture through all of Australia," said Mr Thomas. 

Speaking to NITV's The Point on Tuesday, the National Native Title Council's Jamie Lowe revealed that the council had already produced a national standard that he had himself handed to the federal government. 

"We are calling for them to adopt that," he said.

Mr Lowe said important cultural heritage was being lost each day and stricter penalties were needed to match up to the kinds of damage being inflicted.

"It's not unprecedented - it happens with the environmental act," he said.  

Mr Lowe said he had met with the Kimberley Land Council which has expressed outrage over the lack of prosecution against Kimberley Granite Holdings for alleged damage to culturally significant sites.

Kimberley Land Council's Brian Wilkinson said the council hears of ongoing destrution to Aboriginal heritage sites by mining companies every week.

After the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves last year, mining giant Rio Tinto was compelled to negotiate compensation with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama people and the Pinikura people 

"We keep hearing the words ‘never again’ and ‘sorry’ each time, but this is a national crisis," Mr Wilkinson said. 

"It’s time to take action so the rights and interests of Traditional Owners are protected."

Mr Thomas also expressed concern about the decision-makers and the minimal penalties for mining companies. 

"I think it's a bit abhorrent that a non-Aboriginal person at the end of the day can say yes or no to destroying an important cultural site," he said. 

"That just shouldn't happen anywhere." 

In a statement, Aboriginal Victoria said it was interested to hear ideas about how to further strengthen laws in the southern state.

"We will continue to support and empower Traditional Owners to be heard in matters that may affect the preservation of their cultural heritage," it said. 

Aboriginal Victoria warns of possible fines over Lake Bolac destruction as caretaker expresses 'regret'
A land caretaker says he is sorry over a mistake involving potential damage to rocks at protected site for Indigenous people.

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