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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 8 June 2017) . . Page.. 2102 ..

ACT Heritage Council needs to provide a detailed discussion of its undoubted heritage values when in fact the situation is that Bruce Hall is located on national land and is within a designated area. It is subject to commonwealth management. In these circumstances, I am informed that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the relevant heritage legislation.

This is the sort of instance that the PBELAB is trying to deal with. Where it is clear that the heritage investigation was not needed to be done, you do not have to say what you did not have to do. The government has now provided a revised explanatory statement. It gives a number of examples that show why this change is needed. It has also responded directly to the National Trust’s concerns and I have seen that response. As a result of all the consultation and these communications, my concerns have been reduced. I will therefore be supporting this element of the bill and will not be supporting this element of Ms Lawder’s amendment.

However, I think that the minister, on the basis of this conversation, is aware that this is not a blank cheque for the Heritage Council to say, “No we are not going to look at things that have been given to us”—things that are within its purview. The Greens, many in the community and clearly the Liberal Party will be watching this. If the change does turn out to be a loophole, we will be back here voting on legislation to reverse this change.

I will also not be supporting Ms Lawder’s amendment on the public place names element of PBELAB. I of course entirely agree with Ms Lawder’s policy intent. Who would not? I would be surprised if the government does not agree entirely with Ms Lawder’s policy intent. I would have to agree that the government’s wording “must take reasonable steps to consult an appropriate cultural group” is weak and it would be better to do it better. The problem is how to do it better.

The practical reality is that it is not always possible to consult with an entity that meets Ms Lawder’s wording. I do have some knowledge of this, or rather my office does. One of my staff previously worked in the Victorian system. The Victorian system had similar legislation and similar issues to the ACT.

The Victorian system provides that “registered Aboriginal parties” may represent traditional owners for many local areas. But unfortunately, as a matter of practical reality, 40 per cent of Victoria was not covered. These bodies are significantly underfunded and barely able to achieve their statutory roles, certainly in Victoria, let alone for interstate requests.

These bodies only represent the traditional owners of the areas they cover, not other local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is a sad reality that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been dispossessed and displaced through the stolen generations and other generally unfortunate interventions over the past 200 years of non-Aboriginal occupation of this country. They are not in a position to be adequately represented by their local registered Aboriginal party.

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