Aborigines could be fined over sites

PROPOSED laws to protect Aboriginal heritage could see Aborigines fined up to $6500 for not reporting the location of newly discovered heritage sites.

The Aboriginal Heritage Protection Act, tabled in Parliament last week, could also see Aborigines fined $2600 for refusing to disclose the location of known heritage sites.

The fines apply to all people and are intended to allow the government to keep an accurate register of Aboriginal heritage sites in Tasmania.

But Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Michael Mansell said Aborigines should be exempt or allowed to keep the register themselves.

The centre walked away from consultation on the bill after seeing a draft in June.

Mr Mansell said the proposed legislation did not address the concerns of the Aboriginal community and contradicted the ``progressive'' proposal in a report by former Premier Ray Groom, commissioned after construction of the Brighton Bypass destroyed a significant heritage site.

The government says the legislation would strengthen protections for heritage sites, with fines of up to $1.3 million for corporations and $260,000 for individuals who knowingly harm Aboriginal heritage sites.

``It's got all these tough penalties for members of the public who destroy Aboriginal heritage, but over the past 30 years it's government who have destroyed heritage,'' he said.

Mr Mansell claimed the government had, since 2010, issued permits to destroy Aboriginal heritage sites once a month, the majority of which were to state projects like roads and parks infrastructure.

He said the decision to give the Heritage Minister power to approve or disprove permits made the nine-member Aboriginal Heritage Council, established under the proposed legislation, ``basically useless''.

Heritage Minister Brian Wightman said the proposed legislation struck a ``reasonable'' balance.

``I am confident that the new bill will achieve the best outcomes for heritage protection and management, while also addressing the future needs, growth and prosperity of the state through sustainable development,'' Mr Wightman said.

``It is unfortunate that the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, despite invitations, has been reluctant to engage in development of the bill.''

Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Michael Mansell (at right) examines rock carvings at Sundown Point in the Tarkine with Rex Johnson and David Sainty.

Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Michael Mansell (at right) examines rock carvings at Sundown Point in the Tarkine with Rex Johnson and David Sainty.

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