New Victorian Bill Strengthens Aboriginal Control Over Heritage

Traditional owners will have greater oversight powers and a stronger role in managing and protecting Victoria’s Aboriginal cultural heritage under new laws that have passed the Victorian Parliament today.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins said the Bill establishes new structures and powers to advance Aboriginal self-determination, highlighted by changes to make Registered Aboriginal Parties the decision makers on cultural heritage permits.

Significantly, for the first time in Australia, the Victorian legislation will now provide for the explicit protection of intangible Aboriginal cultural heritage, such as stories, song and language.

Traditional Owners employed by Registered Aboriginal Parties  will also have enforcement powers under the Act  through a new Aboriginal Heritage Officer role. Aboriginal Heritage Officers will directly protect Aboriginal cultural heritage particularly in regional Victoria.

The Bill also introduces innovative and practical measures to ensure impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage from land use and development are more efficiently managed with a new preliminary Aboriginal heritage test to remove doubt about when a cultural heritage management plan is required prior to development. This will cut millions in red tape across government and industry.

The Bill also provides the nation’s strongest protection and most comprehensive process for treating Aboriginal ancestral remains.

These changes follow the investment of $20.9 million over the next four years by the Andrews Labor Government to improve the management and protection of Victoria’s unique Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The Andrews Labor Government will continue to progress the World Heritage listing for the highly significant Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in south west Victoria to ensure the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage for current and future Victorians.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Natalie Hutchins

“These changes significantly advance Aboriginal self-determination in the important area of heritage and culture.”

 “New protections for intangible heritage are an exciting and revolutionary change which acknowledges for the first time those intangible values which Aboriginal people hold as significant about their cultural heritage.”

“The changes build on the landmark laws introduced by the Bracks Labor Government and come after an exhaustive consultative process with traditional owners and industry.”