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Aboriginal Affairs – Aboriginal Heritage Protection

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Tags: Aboriginal Heritage, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. That was the clarification we were asking you to give Tasmanian Aboriginal people in parliament, and that is why there has been enduring hurt and feeling of offence.

Rebecca Digney, Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (ALT) wrote to you on 30 March. She pointed out, on behalf of ALT, their deep concerns that Aboriginal interests must best be served by prioritising the reform of aboriginal heritage protection legislation. She said

If a choice must be made between this and the reform of the Aboriginal Lands Act as real, tangible Aboriginal heritage values are at risk of being permanently lost in the absence of effective mechanisms for protection, we directly ask you to instruct relevant staff and OPC to first work on the Aboriginal Heritage Protection Bill.

Have you done that as ALTAS requested and have you responded to Ms Digney?

Mr JAENSCH - We've set a work program and a legislative agenda in which I hope that we can have both of those matters dealt with or brought to parliament this year.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will you bring the Aboriginal Heritage Act before the Aboriginal Lands Act?

Mr JAENSCH - No. We're advanced in the drafting process for amendments to the Aboriginal Land Act. We’ve conducted multiple consultations on that. It's ahead in the process so far. The Aboriginal cultural heritage protection legislation is entirely new legislation. It's a larger and more complex piece of work. Work on that has also been progressing but in terms of drafting of bills, we're proceeding with the Aboriginal Lands Act.

Dr WOODRUFF - The problem is that you identified the Aboriginal Heritage Act as being 'wholly ineffective' in 2021. They were your words.

Mr JAENSCH - I don't think I said it was 'wholly ineffective'.

Dr WOODRUFF - 'Does not provide effective mechanism for protection, nor does it adequately consider the significance of Aboriginal heritage in the context of Aboriginal culture.'

You were advised of the importance of elevating the Aboriginal Heritage Act above the Aboriginal Lands Act. Surely, your first purpose as minister should be to listen to and respect the need of Aboriginal people. What we have is an Aboriginal Heritage Act that is wholly inappropriate because it just looks at the physical attributes of Aboriginal heritage and doesn't take a proper account of cultural heritage. Why have you disrespected the Aboriginal people?

Mr JAENSCH - I reject that we have disrespected Aboriginal people.

Dr WOODRUFF – You've disrespected AHT then.

Mr JAENSCH - We’ve given commitments going back several years that we will, as a priority, as well as reviewing and improving Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation, review the model for land return. We've given those commitments consistently over many years. We are close this year to being able to deliver on both of those commitments. We intend to do that.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's been six years and there's been no action in this area and you're still prioritising the resources of your staff and OPC towards an Aboriginal Lands Act when you've been specifically directed to first prioritise the Aboriginal Heritage Act. Why are you doing that?

Mr JAENSCH - No. We've had a request from the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania to work on heritage instead of the Aboriginal Land Act. That's a request and that's their view on what the priorities are.

On the other hand, we've made commitments to work on both matters - heritage and lands - over many years. We are now reaching the point of having draft bills to share this year on both. The order that I have determined, that we're going to follow, is to put land first. It's a relatively smaller piece of legislation. We have limited resources so we're going to not try to do everything at the same time because it will take too long. We also have an Aboriginal community and other stakeholders who we are consulting a lot on a range of things. We have to order what we do so that we don't overwhelm them or confuse them on which piece of legislation we're working on. We need to do one thing at a time -

Dr WOODRUFF - So, you'll hand out the Aboriginal Heritage Act draft before the Aboriginal Lands Act?

Mr JAENSCH - No. I've just said it again and again.