Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt has released a discussion paper intended to modernise Aboriginal heritage legislation and promote greater understanding of Aboriginal culture. 

The discussion paper for the review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 sets out proposals to recognise, protect, manage and celebrate the places and objects that are important to Aboriginal culture. It also identifies a framework for efficient land use by industry and other land users.

Among the recommendations are changes to how heritage is defined, so it better reflects a living culture central to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people.

Traditional owners and knowledge holders would be actively engaged in decision making for heritage places to which they have a connection, through the establishment of local Aboriginal heritage services and an Aboriginal Heritage Council.

A streamlined approvals pathway is also recommended for land use projects that avoid or minimise impact on Aboriginal heritage. In cases where land use will significantly impact an Aboriginal heritage place, a transparent decision-making process will balance the benefits of protecting Aboriginal culture and economic development.

The discussion paper reflects what Aboriginal people and other stakeholders have voiced in the first round of consultations for the State Government's review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act, which has remained largely unchanged for more than 47 years.

"This discussion paper is an important stage in our review of the outdated Aboriginal Heritage Act,” says Wyatt. 

"It proposes changes to the legislation that preserves and protects Aboriginal heritage places to make it more equitable to Aboriginal people, and more efficient for industry and other land users that require access to land for economic activity.

"Caring for Country and passing on cultural knowledge to protect sacred and important places for future generations is central to the wellbeing of Aboriginal communities. The changes will foster respectful relationships where Aboriginal people and other land users can agree on how proposed land uses can proceed.

"I encourage previous participants, and other Aboriginal people and stakeholders with an interest in Aboriginal heritage to engage in this next part of the review process."