Illawarra Greens. Social justice, environmental sustainability, peace and non-violence and grassroots democracy.

Call for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act to find some teeth of its own

Jamie Dixon, Greens candidate for Whitlam, wants Minnamurra to be the birthplace of new federal First Nations heritage protection laws, and end the current policy of letting commerce run roughshod over cultural landscape.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act (1984) was originally intended to protect sites of significant cultural importance from disturbance and desecration, but to date has only had 2 positive outcomes in almost 40 years.

“The Aboriginal Land Councils of the Illawarra and Southern Highlands have submitted thousands of objections to both public and private developments under the Act, and to date have not had a single favourable finding. The current Minnamurra sand mine development literally needs to be a line in the sand.

“The independent assessment panel was presented with hundreds of excavated objects indicating a permanent and long established First Nations presence on the river sands flats. There are written settlers’ accounts of the sites, including the 1818 Minnamurra massacre, when the traditional custodians were dispossessed and driven off their country. The descendents of the survivors of that massacre still live in the region. The evidence of significance is overwhelming, and yet the Act has provided no protection of their cultural landscape.”

Despite several legal stop work motions still awaiting consideration, mining of the Minnamurra sites is imminent.

The 2020 report from the inquiry into the destruction of Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, titled "Never Again" made seven recommendations, including an urgent review of the Act, but to date the federal government has done nothing.

“Local Elders continue to explore every possible legal means of halting the destruction of their history at Minnamurra. They are exceptionally skilled at working within state, and federal government legislation, but in almost 40 years, federal law has made no attempt to develop a better interpretation of First Nations cultural significance. It is time the Act was given some teeth.

The Greens will push for a Truth and Justice Commission to uncover past and current wrongdoings against First Nations Australians, and determine how our legislation needs to be altered to better protect people and country. This is the first step towards truth telling and Treaty.