NSW bill for Aboriginal cultural heritage
Aboriginal self-determination is the goal of a new bill to be introduced into NSW parliament next month, seeking to create a council holding the final say on whether a cultural heritage site can be altered or destroyed.
Reverend Fred Nile, the longest-serving member of parliament and newest member of the Seniors United Party of Australia, announced on Thursday he would introduce the bill next month.
The bill would create an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council, which would rule on whether sites, objects or remains deemed as cultural heritage can be altered, damaged or destroyed.
Rev Nile said the bill was needed to protect against things like the destruction of rock caves in the Juukan Gorge by mining company Rio Tinto.
"There was not a single corner of Australia that did not react with horror and disgust at that destruction," he said.
"History was destroyed. We want to make sure it is guarded and treated with respect."
Uluru Dialogues chair and Wiradjuri man Roy Ah-See said NSW is the only state without statutory protection for cultural heritage and the bill is long overdue.
"The destruction of our cultural heritage in NSW is happening today, and it will happen tomorrow, that's why it's important, we need this bill," Mr Ah-See said.
Industry groups would likely be fearful of the bill, Mr Ah-See said, but it was not aimed at stopping progression.
"This isn't about stopping industry ... it's about protection," he said.
"We don't want to stop progression, we don't want to stop homes being built. We just want to have a say in what is rightfully ours and how you manage culture and heritage."
Greens Aboriginal Justice spokeswoman Sue Higginson agreed a cultural heritage bill was desperately needed in NSW, given the "woeful" current laws.
"They don't protect heritage, they facilitate destruction," she told AAP.
Aboriginal people need to be the decision makers and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council the bill seeks to create must be free from Ministerial intervention, Ms Higginson said.
Rev Nile plans to introduce the bill to parliament in the upper house during the next sitting week in June.
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