MEDIA RELEASE: 19 JULY 2022
STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT REPORT SHOWS STRONGER LAWS NEEDED TO PREVENT REPEAT OF JUUKAN GORGE
The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance has welcomed today’s release of the State Of The Environment Report and looks forward to working with the Government to ensure First Nations Peoples have a greater say in defining and protecting cultural heritage.
The Alliance, which represents Aboriginal Land Councils, Native Title Representative Bodies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisations, was created following the destruction of the 46,000 year-old heritage site Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto in May 2020.
In releasing the report, Minister for Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek recommitted Labor to standalone laws for cultural heritage protection and a greater say for First Nations peoples in looking after country.
Kado Muir, Ngalia Cultural and Community Leader and Co-Chair of the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance said it was important that the report contained a separate Indigenous Chapter with an Indigenous voice, informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consultations meetings.
“What is clear from the report is that our natural environment in decline and Aboriginal cultural heritage remains under significant threat,” said Mr Muir, who is also Chair of National Native Title Council.
“We are witnessing a massive decline in species and many of these are culturally and spiritually significant to First Nation people.
We, the First Nations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples are the frontline to restoring the spiritual, cultural and ecological integrity to our nation as a whole.
The fact is we are witnessing a massive decline in species and a lot of these species are culturally and spiritually significant to First Nation people,” continues Mr Muir.
“Our First Nations’ on Country Aboriginal ranger programs and management strategies look after some of the last intact ecosystems in Australia. This report demonstrates the critical importance of the First Nation estate in biodiversity protection and maintenance and reinforces the need for greater investment to support our caring for Country. We expect to play a greater role in the protection of eco systems on our own terms.”
The Hon Tanya Plibersek’s commitment to developing standalone heritage legislation in partnership with the Alliance is welcomed, and we look forward to meeting with the Minister to agree a path to reform.
“The need for Indigenous knowledge on environmental and cultural heritage issues has been openly discussed by the Hon Tanya Plibersek, and we are here to work in partnership with the government on how to achieve meaningful reforms,” says Councillor Anne Dennis a Gamilaraay woman and Co-Chair of First Nations Cultural Heritage Protection Alliance.
“New laws are needed to stop incremental destruction of First Nations cultural resources. We need to ensure the destruction that happened at Juukan Gorge, and that continues daily across Australia, never happens again. First Nations rights to self-determination as outlined in the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be upheld.”
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