More than 300 people gathered to learn more about WA’s new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws in Carnarvon last week, with the Opposition claiming most people considered the public forums to be an “afterthought”. Nationals MPs say the rushed implementation of the new law, which came into effect on Saturday — three days after the Carnarvon forum — had left the community with many concerns. Hundreds from around the Gascoyne attended the Wednesday education session in a bid to wrap their heads around the new Act. North West Central MLC Merome Beard said the rollout of the changes had been “a disgrace” and claimed the State Government was reluctant to give any ground or listen to northern WA and their concerns. “The community feels like the education forum was an afterthought having it held in the 11th hour before the new laws will begin, and with a feeling that the changes are being rushed through the backdoor,” she said. Ms Beard said out of the 300 people who attended the forum, only a few were involved in any consultation process, and most of the attendees were involved in the industry. She said a large group of Vietnamese growers attended the session, but there was no translator to assist them. “It was disappointing no Vietnamese translator was in attendance, with no material provided in multiple languages, which is a missed opportunity,” she said. Ms Beard was also concerned about how accessible communication points would be for the Gascoyne and called on the State Government to provided one locally, and hold a second session for those with English as their second language. “We have many people in this town, growers, pastoralists and residents that need to access that information,” she said. Opposition Leader Shane Love said it was obvious there was still a great deal of confusion and uncertainty in the community, particularly among those from horticultural and pastoral industries. “For the horticulturalists especially, there’s specific concerns that they have based on the fact their business is here on the banks of the Gascoyne River in an area of known significance for cultural heritage,” he said. Mr Love said the implementation was “far too rushed” and didn’t allow enough time for infrastructure to be ready to properly implement the Act. “People are trying to understand what this will mean in practice, how they will actually seek permission for what matters they will need to seek permits, how they go about due diligence, how they go about ensuring they aren’t exposing themselves to risk or failing to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage,” he said. Carnarvon Growers Association manager Nick Cuthbert said the forum had a great turnout, but many growers were left with more questions than what they arrived with. “I think it was great so many growers and other landowners from the region turned out to find out more about what the ACH means for them,” he said. Mr Cuthbert said there was much uncertainty without any Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Service (LACHS) set up in Carnarvon, and the native title claim wasn’t as straightforward in the region compared to other places, which could create more challenges. “It proves just how important it is to the region, we don’t want it to make an effect on growers or make it difficult to open up new land for production,” he said. Carnarvon Shire president Eddie Smith said he didn’t attend the forum, but as a landowner and farmer he was “quite interested” in the Act. “All I’d say is everybody has to get a hold of the Act, read it and give themselves a real understanding of what’s in the Act,” he said.