By Linda Burney MP, Terri Butler MP, Senator Patrick Dodson, Josh Wilson MP

04 March 2021

The Morrison Government must ensure the construction of a go-kart track at Wahluu, Mt Panorama, in NSW does not go ahead until there is a proper determination on any impacts for potentially significant First Nations’ heritage.  

In February 2019, Wiradjuri Traditional Owners made an application under the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Heritage Protection Act 1984 (ATSIHPA) on the basis of the importance of Wahluu to First Nations people.
 
The Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, has not yet made a decision on this matter or advised stakeholders when a decision will be handed down.
 
The Minister must provide a timely and transparent response to the application for intervention. 
 
No one will forget what happened at Juukan Gorge and the failure of the Minister to prevent the tragedy.
 
The Minister is on notice and has a clear opportunity to take steps to prevent further damage to potential cultural heritage.
  
Recent experience has shown that Australia’s national protection framework is not working to prevent the destruction of precious First Nations’ heritage.
 
The Government needs to explain why it still hasn’t reviewed and reformed the (ATSIHPA), which the Government promised to do by December 2017 in its National Heritage Strategy (2015).
 
Minister Ley’s decision to hold roundtables with her state counterparts on the subject of heritage protection in the aftermath of the Juukan Gorge tragedy looks like a case of appearing to do something while continuing to do nothing. Meanwhile, the nationally significant cultural heritage of First Nations peoples remains at risk. 
 
Consistent with the Government’s commitment to review the ATSIHPA by 2017, and the recommendations of the bi-partisan parliamentary interim report into the destruction of Juukan Gorge, Labor is calling on the Morrison Government to undertake an urgent review of the adequacy of the ATSIHPA Act and to take a rigorous precautionary approach until that occurs.