Parliamentary debate over the protection of Aboriginal heritage has shone a light on the lack of Indigenous politicians in the state.
Discussion over proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975 began in Parliament on Wednesday.
These changes included a significant increase in fines for damaging Aboriginal relics, removing reference to 1876 as being a “cut-off” point for Aboriginal heritage, and the establishment of a Aboriginal Heritage Council to advise the Minister.
Minister Matthew Groom said these were important changes to the more than 40-year-old act.
“One of the new functions of the Aboriginal Heritage Council is to advise and make written recommendations to the Minister to any object, site, place or thing alleged to be a relic,” Mr Groom said.
“In the event of any dispute regarding the qualification of relics, the Aboriginal Heritage Council will provide advice to the Minister about what is significant.”
Opposition MP Madeleine Ogilvie said she would support the bill.
“Even though we would like to see a lot more done in the cultural heritage area for our Aboriginal community, this bill does tackle what has been probably the most egregious gap in legislation,” Ms Ogilvie told Parliament.
“I also feel like a little bit of a fraud standing here speaking on this because obviously I’m not Aboriginal and I think it is a bit of a shame … that we don’t have an Aboriginal MP standing here.”
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor told Parliament the bill was a step in the right direction, but noted her disapproval of reopening four-wheel drive tracks in the North-West.
“Cultural heritage for Aboriginal people is often connected into Country, and into story and into the narratives that run through family and community,” Ms O’Connor said.
“It’s really hard for the law to accommodate those sorts of intangibles but we must make every effort possible.”
Premier Will Hodgman told Parliament it was clear that views in 2017 were very different to what was represented in 1975.