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Consultation, certainty and clarity the key in new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage laws

Western Australia’s peak resources industry body acknowledges the WA Government’s decision to restore Aboriginal cultural heritage laws from the 1972 Act, with additional targeted measures and reiterated the need for certainty and a smooth transition across the state following the Cook Government’s announcement that it will repeal the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act (ACHA) 2021.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Tomkinson emphasised the principles of the ACHA 2021 must be preserved in the Government’s decision to replace the current legislation with an amended Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (AHA 1972).

She said equally, certainty on the new direction, consultation on the specific amendments and process for effecting these changes must be provided to maintain business continuity and avoid unintended impacts.

“The resources sector has been working with Government and stakeholders over the past five years to facilitate the implementation the 2021 heritage regime and continues to be invested in achieving this goal,” she said.

“Certainty of regulation is important to maintaining our State’s reputation as a safe and stable jurisdiction to invest.

“It was not unexpected that the new ACH Framework would require modifications during implementation, and we welcomed Government’s commitment to take action and address issues as they arose. 

“Similarly, the application of the amended AHA 1972 must be informed by practical, on the ground experience of participants from all stakeholders to ensure it is workable. Ongoing consultation, adequate transition provisions and an educative approach will be critical.

“CME welcomes the Government’s announcement that it will continue to work with the Implementation Group during the transition period.

“We remain committed to working with the Government to ensure there is a functional regime in place which ensures Aboriginal people have an active role in managing their own heritage while also providing certainty for sustainable industry development.

“The ultimate aim is for a balanced approach that safeguards heritage values and supports Western Australia’s economic growth and prosperity.”

Ms Tomkinson said the CME would continue to work with Government on the development of a revised AHA 1972, including the important transition arrangements from the 2021 Act.