Thursday, 11 June 2020
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 608 standing in my name for today relating to the Juukan Gorge by amending paragraph f(i).
I move the motion as amended:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) on May 15 2020 the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples, the traditional owners of the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia's Pilbara, put in a request to Rio Tinto to access the site of two 46,000-year-old rock shelters and were advised that the site was laden with explosives and about to be destroyed to make way for a major expansion of an iron ore mine, and
(ii) following this news, the Traditional Owners requested that Rio Tinto not go ahead due to the cultural significance of the Gorge; they phoned the WA government and then appealed to the Federal Government but, on May 24, the site was destroyed;
(b) recognises that archaeological studies show that Juukan Gorge is one of the earliest occupied locations in Australia and that this is an irreplaceable loss of culture,
(c) acknowledges that Rio Tinto was aware of the significance of this site to the Traditional Owners having helped make a documentary about it years prior,
(d) further notes that:
(i) it is reported that FMG as part of its mining operations has plans to destroy other heritage sites in the Pilbara including a 60,000-year-old rock shelter, and
(ii) there have been 463 applications to impact West Australian Aboriginal heritage sites on mining leases under Section 18 of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act in the past 10 years—none has been rejected,
(e) condemns the destruction of Juukan Gorge and the loss of irreplaceable First Nations heritage, and
(f) calls on:
(i) FMG, Rio Tinto, BHP and any other mining companies with proposals to destroy First Nations heritage and culture to immediately abandon those plans; and
(ii) Governments around Australia to act to ensure no further loss of First Nations heritage or culture.
The Australian government is deeply disappointed about the destruction of Indigenous sacred sites at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia. This was an action approved in 2013 under section 18 of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act. The Western Australian government has commenced a review of that act. The Australian government is committed to ensuring that Commonwealth law provides the right protection for Indigenous cultural heritage, and this is being considered through the current independent review of the EPBC Act.
Labor will not be supporting this motion. We condemn the destruction of First Nations cultural heritage that occurred at Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto. Proposals in this motion would take decision-making back decades. Self-determination means First Nations peoples can make decisions about the value of their cultural heritage and what should be protected, not just governments. This is why Labor is proposing a joint parliamentary inquiry to get genuine solutions and ensure that this doesn't happen again.