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Jaensch Must Listen to Aboriginal Community

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Tags: Aboriginal Heritage

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Leader

The government’s planned changes to the Aboriginal Lands Act are disrespectful, misguided and the Rockliff Government should listen to the community’s priorities about government legislative reform.

Despite an explicit request from the Tasmanian Aboriginal community to prioritise urgent and critical changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act, Minister Roger Jaensch has forged ahead with controversial changes to the Aboriginal Lands legislation first.

It is over two years since the Minister tabled a report to Parliament that acknowledged that heritage protection laws were not ‘effective’. Since then, destructive proposals like the Robbins Island wind farm have been assessed against this flawed legislation.

The Minister has also ignored the deeply held concerns expressed by many Tasmanian Aboriginal people about the draft Aboriginal Lands bill. This is the latest in a long line of steps the Minister has taken in the face of strong opposition.

Not only is the Minister’s approach misguided and divisive, but he is trying to rush this important phase of the process. A six-week timeframe for consultation on the detail of these proposed laws is insultingly short.

Every day across Tasmania, Aboriginal heritage values are being destroyed. In the 2021/22 reporting year, the Aboriginal Heritage Council recommended six development proposals for rejection, but the Minister ignored this advice and approved them. Community members wanting to understand the Minister’s reasons for refusal were told to seek information through the Right To Information Act.

It’s time the Rockliff Government stops their disrespectful and stubborn approach to achieving the best outcomes for Tasmanian Aboriginal people, the protection of irreplaceable heritage, and the just return of lands. If Minister Jaensch is serious about positive reform outcomes he needs to start listening to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

The first step Roger Jaensch should take is to pause his process for changes to the Aboriginal Lands Act, and immediately focus on reforming Aboriginal heritage legislation.