Neil Thomson MLC

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

There are many questions that are coming through emails, phone calls and Facebook about the new ACH Act.  The queries fall into four main categories being:

  • Where can I get more information?

  • How did we get to this point?

  • What happens next with the ACH?

  • What can I do to support the campaign?

The over-reach of the ACH legislation - coupled with the arrogant attitude of the WA Labor Government that will not listen to concerns and the ability of the Government to curtail debate - means that so many people are anxious, stressed and deeply concerned by the implications.  Importantly, the critical systems are not in place.   

I am yet to find, outside of the Labor Party, anybody that thinks this legislation is in the best interests of Western Australians - with deep concern expressed by Traditional Owners that the over-reach is causing division.  Nobody believes that the 20kg threshold is realistic or that freehold land of 1,100 m2 should be subjected to so much uncertainty.   I feel sorry for my former colleagues tasked with implementing this mess - they have been starved of funds to update maps in advance of implementation, even though the State Government forecast $86m income from fees associated with the ACH. in the 2023 State Budget.

The Liberal Party has committed to doing two things if it is elected into Government in 2025

  • The Liberal Party will immediately amend the regulations to increase thresholds on TIER 1, TIER 2 and TIER 3 activities along with increasing the number and range of exemptions.

  • It will scrap the existing legislation and introduce sensible replacing legislation into the Parliament of Western Australia as soon as possible.

It is vital that the Liberal Party gain enough seats in both houses of parliament in order to pass these amendments.  

What's next in 2023

In June 2023 the Liberal Party moved a Disallowance Motion in the Legislative Council.  A Disallowance Motion, if passed, would revoke the Act.  To pass, this motion would need the support of the minor parties, independents AND a number of Labor members.

This motion will be debated when parliament returns in August - the date for this debate has not yet been determined by the Labor Government. If you want to view the debate on line or in person, please click the feedback button below so that we can send an email to let you know when the debate will take place.

The Liberal Party will continue to raise this issue at every opportunity through to the State Election in March 2025.  Within the first 100 days Liberal Government being elected (if not sooner), the  tier thresholds will be lifted, and as soon as possible, the Act will be amended or rewritten to deliver a more balanced approach which protects Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and removes unnecessary red tape.   

ABORIGINAL CULTURAL HERITAGE LEGISLATION

WHERE TO GET MORE INFORMATION

Where you need specific advice, it is recommend that you use the resources available from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage website and the staff.  Links to guidelines, fact sheets and maps are provided below.

PHONE:  08 6551 8002 or

EMAIL:   Aboriginalheritage@dplh.wa.gov.au

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN

This is a grass roots campaign and we need you help.
  1. The most important thing you can do is let us know your experience in the new ACH world.  It may be that the Department is not responding to your queries in reasonable timeframe  - I can follow up with a question in Parliament.  If you have a story to tell let me know and I will follow up.
  2. Contact your local member of parliament and ask if they will vote in favour of the Motion of Disallowance which will halt the implementation of this Act.  See link below to a list of all members of parliament.
  3. Encourage people to watch, on line or in person, the debate on the Motion of Disallowance.
  4. Write a letter to your local paper.
  5. Write a letter to your local member of parliament - regardless of their party affiliation - they will face the scrutiny of the people they serve at the State Election scheduled for 8 March 2025.
  6. Write to the Minister to express your concerns, the more detail the better.  The Minister's contact details are:
        Email:  Minister.Buti@dpc.wa.gov.au
        Phone: 08 6552 6400 
The ACH Journey

HOW DID WE GET HERE - THE ACH JOURNEY

There have been many people that have asked how this divisive legislation became law..  The journey to 1 July 2023 has been over 50 years in the making and is summarized below.

1972

  • The Aboriginal Heritage Act become law in Western Australia.  The focus was on major activities such as mining, infrastructure construction and development.

2014

  • A Bill to amend the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 was presented to Parliament by the Barnett Government however, the National Party withdrew its support for the laws meaning the opportunity for some modernisation was lost.

2015

  • Justice John Chaney handed down a ruling that the removal of a sacred site in Port Hedland from the State Government’s Cultural Heritage Register was not in accordance with the Act and should be reviewed.  The finding by Justice Chaney fundamentally changed the interpretation of Aboriginal heritage to recognise a wider definition of heritage sites.

2017

  • The incoming Labor government abolished the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, committing to, but not initiating, an alternative structure.

2019  

  • The destruction of Juuken Gorge put additional pressure for overdue change.  The WA Labor Minister's office was made aware of imminent destruction of the gorge but it appeared nothing was done to seek a pause on this action.

2020

  • COVID Emergency Powers passed through the Parliament.  These powers allowed the government to limit debate on Bills at their discretion. 

2021

  • Labor rushed the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill through Parliament, using the COVID Emergency provisions to limit debate to just one day in the legislative Council. 

  • The Opposition moved a motion to refer the Bill to committee to enable thorough consideration of the implications, however this was opposed by the Labor government.

  • Noting the Act had not been updated since the Justice Chaney decision, the legislative gap that allowed for the destruction of Juuken Gorge and assurances by the Labor Government that the regulations would be sensible, the Opposition chose not to oppose the Bill.

 2022

  • Government consultation with selected groups and written submission period open.

 2023

May 2023

  • Gazettal of Statutory Guidelines  (30 May 2023). 

 June 2023

  • Petition to defer implementation gained almost 30,000 signatures in two weeks and was tabled in parliament.

  • Hundreds of people turned away from State Government information sessions

  • Motion of Disallowance read into parliament.

  • Guidelines and information sheets uploaded to the Departments website (including some that were removed, amended and reloaded).

 July 2023

  • Implementation of the Act

  • Several reports of works being paused and prospectors being denied access to land.

  • Reports of chaos and confusion.

CONTACT NEIL

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