Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula) De-registered

One of the world’s most prolific and oldest rock art galleries was last week de-registered by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. This is due to controversial new guidelines which outline that a site must be ‘devoted to a religious use rather than a place subject to mythological story, song or belief’. This new definition completely disregards Aboriginal law and belief systems, and will only see more sacred and significant sites left unprotected. Anne McQuire, from the New Matilda, reports on the de-registration here.

 

Late Night Live: Threats to Aboriginal heritage

On Radio National Late Night Live,  Phillip Adams chats with AHAA founding member and spokesperson Clayton Lewis, and University of Western Australia Professor Peter Veth on the threats to Western Australia’s Aboriginal heritage.

This segment highlighted the precedence of mining development over Aboriginal heritage, and the need for a fairer and sustainable approach to heritage management and industrial development in Western Australia.

For those who missed it, follow this link through and click ‘listen now’.

Carmen Lawrence: ‘Perhaps it’s not too late to recast ourselves as custodians of Western Australia’

image-20150120-24445-2rj7on

Former Premier of Western Australia Carmen Lawrence speaks about the intrinsic value of Western Australia’s heritage, and the deep connection it draws from those who are atune to it. Sadly, mining and development have always trumped other land uses, and the price paid is irreversible loss of cultural and natural places. However, she asks if its not to late to re-establish ourselves as custodians of this place, instead of seeking domination. Read the story at The Conversation.

AHAA Peaceful Protest at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs

The Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance held a peaceful protest outside the Department of Aboriginal Affairs against the proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 proposed by the Barnett Government. Two strategic outcomes were achieved today, a petition was submitted to the WA parliament opposing the Aboriginal Heritage Act Amendment Bill 2014, stating that the WA State Government has missed an important opportunity to address racial inequalities in the 1972 Act, and that the proposed changes are mostly aimed at speeding up approval processes for industry, and undermine, rather than improve Aboriginal heritage protection. Secondly, an open letter to the Western Australian Government and Executive of the DAA was hand delivered to the Deputy General of DAA, Cliff Weeks. The letter is available here.

Today’s action at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was a great success, and the Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance thanks all the supporters who turned up today to participate and get involved. We are grateful to the Traditional Owners who came from the desert to the sea and from north to south, sending a strong message to the WA Government that the current state of Aboriginal heritage protection is unacceptable. AHAA spokesperson Clayton Lewis addressed the crowd, and we heard from other Traditional Owners including Noel Nannup and Geoffery Stokes. WA Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal heritage Robin Chapple presented information on the legal and parliamentary aspects of the proposed amendment bill.

A number of Traditional Owners took the chance to speak on their concerns on the de-registration of Aboriginal sites on their Country.

Geoffrey Stokes from Mount Margaret near Kalgoorlie tells his story about confronting a mining company who was excavating the entrance to a sacred site last October. Geoffrey is now facing Kalgoorlie court on the 26th of February for allegedly firing a warning shot in the air to get the attention of the mining workers when they refused to acknowledge him.

Traditional Owners in attendance at the protest against the proposed changes.

Richard, Noel, Geoffrey and Clayton at the front of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs today, at the AHAA peaceful protest.

Ernie Dingo came to show his support to AHAA at the peaceful protest today.

We invite everyone who is following this page to spread the word about the Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance, and use the group as a focal point to connect supporters so we can unify and create better outcomes for Aboriginal cultural heritage.

ABORIGINAL HERITAGE ACTION ALLIANCE (AHAA) OPEN LETTER TO THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT & EXECUTIVE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS 17 FEBRUARY 2015

Today marks the anniversary of the 1868 Flying Foam Massacres, which virtually wiped out the original Yaburara inhabitants and custodians of the globally-significant rock art of Murujuga (the Burrup Peninsula) in the Pilbara.

147 years later, State Parliament resumes today to debate your Government’s proposed Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014 which has the potential to have significant negative impacts upon protection of Aboriginal Heritage throughout the State.

Cliff Weeks

Director General of DAA Cliff Weeks receives the AHAA to submit their open letter.

Since 2011, the Barnett Government has filled the DAA Executive with appointees from industry who have no qualifications in Aboriginal heritage management, and who are now running the DAA Heritage Branch.

The DAA Executive has implemented ‘administrative changes’ and crafted an AHA Amendment Bill which will strip Aboriginal cultural sites of protection under the AHA and facilitate their destruction.

The Bill, if passed, will also enable future acts without according the procedural rights provided to Aboriginal people under the Commonwealth Native Title Act, and is thus likely to be invalid due to inconsistency with the NTA.

In a surprising interpretation of s 5(b) of the AHA (currently under challenge in the WA Supreme Court), DAA has published Guidelines and is adopting a view in communications with the public and advice to the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee that an Aboriginal sacred site is not protected under the AHA unless there is evidence of ‘religious activity’ at the site.

Recently, DAA’s Registrar has been sending out letters to Aboriginal custodians throughout WA saying their sacred sites are to be deregistered on these grounds.

Consistently with this approach: 80% of sites submitted to DAA in the first five months of 2011 were assessed by DAA to be sites, while in the same period of 2014, only 6% were found to be sites!

To make heritage approvals easier for developers, the AHA Amendment Bill will give DAA’s CEO the power to decide what is or is not an Aboriginal site of significance.

Your Government has apparently paid little heed to criticism of DAA’s 2012 discussion paper[1] and 2014 draft Bill[2] by numerous Aboriginal organisations, as well as the leading professional bodies in the field, including the Law Society of WA, Australian Anthropological Society, Australian Archaeological Association, Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists, National Trust (WA), Australia ICOMOS, Anthropological Society of WA, and UWA Archaeology.

  • We express our deep concern at the lack of consultation with Aboriginal people and the lack of recognition and respect for Aboriginal traditional lore, law and custom evidenced in the AHA Amendment Bill;
  • We have no confidence in the current DAA Executive’s management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in WA;
  • We call on you to withdraw the AHA Amendment Bill immediately and establish a Parliamentary Select Committee to properly review the AHA and adequately consult with Aboriginal people.

Clayton Lewis

Spokesperson 0498 002 812

facebook.com/aboriginalheritagewa

Aboriginalheritageaction@gmail.com

 

 

[1] http://www.daa.wa.gov.au/en/Heritage-and-Culture/Aboriginal-heritage/Heritage-Act-Reform/Submissions/

[2] http://www.daa.wa.gov.au/en/Heritage-and-Culture/Aboriginal-heritage/Aboriginal-Heritage-Legislative-Changes/Submissions-recieved/

AHAA Inaugural Meeting

The inaugural meeting of the Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance was a great success, and we welcomed the varied backgrounds who attended the meeting– Aboriginal representatives, archaeologists, anthropologists, state and federal politicians, environment group reps and lawyers. This has provided us with a good brains trust and shows the spectrum of society who reject the current ( and future proposed) regime of state managed Aboriginal heritage in WA. We are particularly pleased to have had Traditional Owner representation from the Pilbara, Goldfields, Mid West and the Perth region. We are well poised to influence positive change for a regime that recognises the ongoing importance of this landscape to Aboriginal people and wider society.

The AHAA’s inaugural meeting at the Conservation Council in Perth was featured on NITV news on Tuesday night (10 February 2015):

The motions that came out of the inaugural AHAA meeting were:

  • No confidence in the current DAA Executive’s management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in WA.
  • Calls on the State Government to withdraw its current AHA Amendment Bill and for Parliament to establish a Parliamentary Select Committee to properly review the AHA and the administration of Aboriginal heritage in WA, as per previous statements by the KLC & YMAC.
  • This group condemns the lack of Aboriginal representation, and the lack of recognition and respect for Aboriginal traditional lore, culture and custom evidenced in the State Government’s drafting of the AHA Amendment Bill.

Robin Chapple MLC Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region said it was ‘extremely encouraging to see such united grassroots support for the protection of Aboriginal heritage in Western Australia’.

Importance of mythological places: The Monash Country Lines Archive

The Dreamings From Saltwater Country

The Dreamings from the Saltwater Country (Narnu-Yuwa ki Anthaa)

According to bureaucrats in Western Australia’s Department of Aboriginal Affairs, an Aboriginal mythological site in WA  cannot be classified as  an ‘Aboriginal site’ under the  the State’s Aboriginal Heritage Act unless there is evidence of “religious practice” associated with the site. See further discussion here.

By contrast, the Monash Country Lines Archive breathtakingly recreates the living Dreaming narratives of the Gulf of Carpentaria and highlights the ongoing significance to Aboriginal people of sites associated with such narratives.  See here for the archive.

The Monash Country Lines project showcases interactive videos of dreaming trails with the songs of that trail.