The state government’s positive changes to the Aboriginal Relics Act are undermined by its disregard for indigenous Tasmanians, a leading voice in the indigenous community says.
While she applauded the government’s efforts to amend the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975 so that it was more sensitive to indigenous heritage, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Heather Sculthorpe said the changes did not accord with some of the government’s other policies.
“Whilst they’re bringing in small amendments to the Relics Act, they’re continuing with their determination to open tarkayna [the Tarkine] to 4WD tracks, which will … wreck aboriginal heritage,” Ms Sculthorpe said.
“They’re still chopping down trees in tarkayna … to offend us as the owners of tarkayna.”
The Aboriginal Relics Amendment Bill 2016 seeks to better protect aboriginal heritage in Tasmania.
Some of the amendments the bill proposed were: changing the name of the original act to ‘Aboriginal Heritage Act’; removing a reference to the year 1876 as the so-called cut-off date for aboriginal heritage; increasing penalties for damaging aboriginal heritage; and removing the six-month time limit for the prosecution of offences.
Environment Minister Matthew Groom said the Hodgman government was committed to “reset[ting]” the state’s relationship with the Tasmanian aboriginal community.
He said the government would further consult the aboriginal community to resolve any remaining issues with the act.