Amendments to further protect Aboriginal heritage in Tasmania passed through the lower house on Thursday.
The amendments to the more than 40-year-old Aboriginal Relics Act bring with them a raft of changes to better protect Tasmania’s Indigenous history.
As well as a change in name to the Aboriginal Heritage Act, other amendments 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 in Parliament that through the amendment process, he had come to further appreciate the resilience of Aboriginal Tasmanians.
“One of the things that I have learnt is that through the conflict that was inflicted on the Aboriginal people, one of the characteristics that we don’t recognise and celebrate enough, I believe, is the extraordinary resilience and courage and strength that the Aboriginal people showed,” Mr Groom said in Parliament.
Concerns raised in Wednesday’s debate included why the name of the act was changed to remove “relics” and add “heritage” in its place, but still referred to relics throughout the amendment.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor also raised concerns over the reopening of four-wheel drive tracks in the state’s North-West, and Opposition MP Madeleine Ogilvie raised the issue of a lack of Indigenous representation in the Tasmanian Parliament.
Mr Groom told Parliament the amendments would not solve every issue in Tasmania, but it was a good start.
“Based on the consultation we’ve come up with amendments with this act and I do think it’s the right suite,” he said.
“There are broader issues and the government recognises that this is a conversation that we’ve got to continue to have.”
The bill will now head to the Legislative Council for debate.