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Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Reforms
The need for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage reform
Aboriginal people in NSW have been calling for reform for many years. At present, most Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW is protected and managed under the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Those provisions:
- Do not give Aboriginal people enough say over the management of their heritage
- Are outdated and often criticised by both the Aboriginal community, industry and development proponents
- Are inflexible and inefficient to administer
- Do not produce the best heritage outcomes
Public feedback from a reform model released by the NSW Government in 2013 revealed general support for the principles of that model, but there were wide ranging and often contrasting views about detailed design elements. After several years of consultation and carefully considering this feedback, a new system for managing and conserving Aboriginal cultural heritage was proposed which is reflected in the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018.
Progress following the 2018 Draft Bill and consultation
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon. Ben Franklin, is progressing the Aboriginal cultural heritage (ACH) reforms. The reforms are being prepared by Aboriginal Affairs NSW within the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Government is working closely with key Aboriginal stakeholders to finalise the model of the 2018 draft Bill.
The proposed new system aims to fulfil the NSW Government’s commitment to deliver contemporary legislation that respects and conserves Aboriginal cultural heritage for current and future generations. It also aims to recognise Aboriginal custodianship and ensure Aboriginal people have the authority to make decisions about Aboriginal cultural heritage, while providing clear and consistent processes for economic and social development in NSW.
The objectives of the reforms are to deliver:
- Broader recognition of Aboriginal cultural heritage values
- Decision-making by Aboriginal people
- Better information management
- Improved protection, management and conservation of ACH
- Greater confidence in the regulatory system
- Cultural change in government.
AANSW is building on the foundations of the 2018 draft Bill and working towards finalising legislation.
Further conversations between Aboriginal communities and knowledge holders, and the Government will lead to the refinement of more appropriate and informed practices that recognise the custodianship Aboriginal people have over their own culture and heritage.
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