The Senate Committee into the Juukan crisis has released their final report. Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe sat on the Inquiry, saying that, “This government was built on colonial violence. The final Juukan report shows us that this violence is still in the laws that we use today.”
“The Inquiry clearly showed how our heritage protection laws not only fail to protect, but are even designed to favor the developers and miners. Current legislation does not create space for adequate consultation and consent, and the possibility to say ‘no’ to a proposed activity.
“The system allows and encourages coercion, it brings division into our communities, and in the end it is the Minister, not the Traditional Owners, who has the final say over what happens on our lands.
“The Greens agree with the committee’s conclusion that we need a complete overhaul of our heritage protection laws and that we need a new national framework for this. The committee recommends the framework be co-designed between government and First Nations people.
“The Greens believe that we can do better. Our recommendation is that we put First Nations people in the driver's seat. Traditional owners should have the final say and decide what laws govern our Country. Healing our lands and waters is critical to save everyone in this Country from the climate emergency.
“The Juukan caves would never have been destroyed if we had a Treaty. A Treaty would make equality between First Nations people and the Australian government the basis of our nationhood. It would create a unified national identity and celebrate what unites us.
“A Treaty is an opportunity for all of us to tell the story of who we want to be as a country.” Said Gunnai, Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung Senator for Victoria Lidia Thorpe, the Greens spokesperson for Justice and First Nations.
Lines attributable to Yamatji-Noongar Senator for Western Australia Dorinda Cox: the Greens spokesperson for Mining and Resources
“This final report on the legal but immoral destruction of Juukan Gorge has exposed the deep colonial entrenchment of ownership of land in Australia," said Cox.
“First Nations people see no division between themselves and their country, yet the laws of this land allow for the destruction of cultural sites, despite First Nations people saying no.
“Juukan Gorge should never happen again, yet the way the Western AustralianCultural Heritage Bill has been written changes nothing and Juukan could legally happen all over again.
“It is now up to shareholders, investors, mining company boards and executives to stand with First Nations people to publicly call on the WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson to rethink the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill and give First Nations people the final right to say ‘No’, rather than the final say sitting with the Minister.
"Aboriginal people haven't even seen the final Bill and are afraid that it will be introduced into Parliament and rushed through by a majority Labor Government, without the voices of First Nations people being heard.
“We want to make sure that it includes internationally recognised best practices around Free, Prior and Informed consent, otherwise it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
As a first step, The Western Australian Government must abolish all powers that authorise damage to cultural heritage without the consent of Common Law Holders and Traditional Owners.
“First Nations people must be the primary decision makers of their cultural heritage, and this once in a lifetime moment cannot be lost to us,” she said.
Unfairness of the Bill:
- The Minister still gets the final say, even if Traditional Owners) say no;
- The draft Bill still allows proponents to legally destroy cultural heritage sites;
- Mining companies could decide the level of impact and the involvement of Traditional Owners;
- Sunset clauses mean sites could be approved for ten years.