NSW: The 'Crown' owns Aboriginal culture and heritage

Under current laws Aboriginal people do not have a recognised right to decide what happens with their culture and heritage. In NSW the National Parks and Wildlife Act stipulates that all Aboriginal objects are considered to be 'property of the Crown', and gives the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage ("OEH") the power to authorise the damage or destruction of Aboriginal objects and places, through the issuing of 'consents'.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is now chasing 10,000 signatures to a petition to have this important issue debated in parliament.

In a fact sheet the NSWALC states: "NSW is home to some of the most important Aboriginal heritage sites in the world, many of which are more than 40,000 years old. Aboriginal culture and heritage sites that exist within NSW are not just an important part of Australia's heritage and history, but are an essential part of the culture and identity of Aboriginal communities today.

"The Aboriginal culture and heritage management regime of the NPW Act has been described quite appropriately as: 'like Dracula being in charge of the blood bank'.

"The inclusion of Aboriginal culture and heritage in flora and fauna legislation has long been criticised as outdated and a distasteful and inappropriate remnant from a time when Aboriginal peoples were considered as merely part of the environment. More alarmingly still, Aboriginal people do not have a recognised right through the current legislation to decide what happens with their culture and heritage.

"The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council urges community members to tell the NSW Minister for the Environment what you think should be included in new Aboriginal culture and heritage laws."

Additional information is available from the NSWALC website www.alc.org.au, (under the 'Culture and Heritage' tab) or from the NSWALC Policy and Research Unit on 02 9689 4444 or at policy@alc.org.au.

Information about the current reform process is also available on the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/achreform/

Previously published by Indymedia