New Aboriginal heritage laws move a step closer in Tasmania

TASMANIAN Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister Brian Wightman last week released the draft Aboriginal Heritage Protection Bill 2012 and launched the six-week consultation process as part of the development of new Aboriginal heritage laws for the state.

Mr Wightman said Tasmania needs Aboriginal heritage laws that are fair, balanced and modern, adding that the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975 is "clearly out-dated".

"The new legislation helps us better protect and manage Aboriginal heritage, as well as providing clarity for landowners and developers," Mr Wightman said.

The Minister said the release of the draft Bill provides a chance for the Aboriginal and broader community to look closely at the detail.

"We'll consider all feedback for possible improvements, and aim to introduce a Bill in the autumn session of Parliament, next year," he said.

According to the government, the new legislation:

  • Provides an integral role for the Aboriginal community in managing their own heritage;
  • Provides clear processes and statutory time frames for developments, appeal rights, as well as an effective enforcement system;
  • Removes the arbitrary cut-off year of 1876 for recognising Aboriginal heritage; and
  • Coordinates approval processes with the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act, as well as other planning systems.

The Tasmanian State Budget provided $780,000 in 2012-13 to help assess, protect and manage Aboriginal heritage in Tasmania, by drafting new legislation. The forward estimates set aside $600,000 a year to manage the new laws.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, the new laws are expected to be implemented in the middle of next year.

Mr Wightman also announced the appointment of an interim Aboriginal Heritage Council, after Expressions of Interest were called in August.

The non-statutory body will only operate until the new legislation starts and a new statutory Aboriginal Heritage Council is established.

"I am pleased to announce it'll be chaired by Rocky Sainty, who's a past Chairman of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, and has held several heritage-related roles," Mr Wightman said, adding that the council members have a broad range of skills and experience.

"I look forward to receiving their advice and recommendations on Aboriginal heritage matters - including permits, policies and standards, and the new legislation itself," he said.

More information on the Draft Aboriginal Heritage Protection Bill is available from <http://www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au/ahl>. Community consultation on the draft legislation is open until Friday December 14th.

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