The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has told Parliament that the start date for the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 was self-imposed and was defiant in his refusal to extend the timeline despite growing evidence the Department, stakeholders and community were not prepared.
Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mia Davies said the response of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti to questioning during Budget Estimates was disappointing, but not surprising.
This week in Estimates it was revealed that the Government was still working on guidelines to accompany the Act, the new IT platform was still under development and that education sessions for the community would only start next week.
“In the rush to meet a self-imposed deadline the Minister has failed to ensure all stakeholders will be adequately prepared for the changes,” Ms Davies said.
“The introduction of this new Act requires more than a quick dash around the State by the Department in the month before it comes into effect.”
Ms Davies said it was confounding that before pressure from the Opposition, the Government had not intended to run any education sessions in the Wheatbelt citing it was “not that far from Perth”.
“When questioned on the limited timeframe for education on the changes, the Minister suggested anyone with questions should call the Department,” she said.
“Judging by the calls and contacts to my office alone I’d suggest the Minister needs to increase the number of people in the Department to respond to the tsunami of questions coming their way.”
Ms Davies said the Minister should consider pushing back the start date for the Act given the regulations for the Act had only been published in April, meaning there was very little time for landowners, Local Government’s, businesses and aboriginal groups to prepare themselves prior to 1st July.
“I am also calling for additional education sessions to be added given that many are already at capacity and there’s clearly great demand in the community for information and clarity on these changes,” she said.
“It should be the Minister’s priority to introduce and implement the system as seamlessly as possible, not meet some self-imposed deadline.
“When there’s only nine groups approved to become Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services, guidelines still being developed and little clarity in the broader community about obligations it would be the sensible thing to do.”
“The Minister’s response has been ‘call the Department’ so I would encourage anyone with questions about how you may be impacted by the new legislation to contact the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.”
The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage can be contacted on, 08 6551 8002.