Government response on Juukan Gorge

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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSE ON JUUKAN GORGE DESTRUCTION

* Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has released the federal government’s response to a parliamentary committee’s reports on the destruction of First Nations’ heritage sites at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia.

*The interim and final reports followed destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan caves by mining giant Rio Tinto in May 2020.

* The recommendations included implementing international agreements, legislative and policy reform, improving systems and processes and prohibiting restrictions on traditional owners from seeking cultural heritage protections.

* They also address broader cultural heritage law and policy matters.

* The government agreed to seven of the eight recommendations.

* The government recognised an ongoing story of damage and destruction to cultural heritage sites across Australia since colonisation.

* It committed to law reform, with standalone First Nations cultural heritage legislation, to be co-designed with First Nations peoples.

* Reforms will be established within the frameworks of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

* In developing reforms, the government will consider the importance of cultural heritage to First Nations peoples and all Australians, balanced with the need for business and industry development certainty.

* An agreement with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance has been signed to make sure Indigenous voices are present at each stage of the law reform process.

* A recommendation to give ultimate responsibility for cultural heritage protection to the minister for Indigenous affairs rather than the environment minister will be worked through with the alliance.

* The federal government will also consider strengthening protections for First Nations people where state or territory protections are inadequate.

* The government commits to putting truth-telling at the heart of its engagement with Indigenous people when it comes to cultural heritage law reform.

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