Submission: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (Culture is Identity) Bill 2022

NSWCCL recently made a submission to the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (Culture is Identity) Bill 2022 Inquiry. In our submission we acknowledge that this Bill is designed to better protect and support Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (ACH) and that it presents an opportunity for long overdue and meaningful changes to cultural heritage legislation. If passed, it would also effect a tangible step forward for First Nations’ justice in NSW.

NSWCCL recognises the substantial intergenerational trauma suffered by First Nations people across Australia and notes that the inclusion of Aboriginal cultural heritage as part of the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 compounds the impacts of colonisation, loss of land, language and culture and the forced removal of First Nations’ children. We believe that the situating of cultural heritage protections under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 is racist, inherently discriminatory and long overdue for reform.

The draft bill before the Inquiry would assist in complying with Australia’s international obligations under Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which provides that Indigenous People have the right to maintain, protect and develop their cultural traditions and customs.

The cultural dispossession of First Nations peoples during the colonisation of Australia “not only set the stage for social disintegration, it deprived Aboriginal people of their land and material livelihood, setting the stage for their economic deprivation and continuing poverty”. The process of dispossession was violent, and the “colonial government’s authorisation of settlement allowed Aboriginal deaths at the hands of Europeans to take place with impunity”.

The path forward for First Nations’ justice is far from complete, but this draft Bill contributes to affecting justice in a small and still, incomplete way. First Nations peoples should be able to make key decisions, develop guidance materials, compliance and enforcement, and appoint Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services to protect Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. Aboriginal people should be in control of their heritage. In our submission, we recommended that the New South Wales Government legislate the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (Culture is Identity) Bill 2022 to allow this to happen.

For more information, read the full submission.