Sorry, not sorry: the operation of WA’s Aboriginal Heritage Act

Research output: Other contribution


Western Australia’s Aboriginal Heritage Act (the Act) has the stated aim to provide for ‘the preservation, on behalf of the community, of places…traditional to the original inhabitants of Australia’. However, the Act’s use has facilitated the legally-authorised damage of Aboriginal sites more often than it has provided preservation. Many Aboriginal sites have been harmed through the Act’s use (or avoidance), with industry and government then professing sorrow or aspirations that such outcomes won’t recur. Like the fake cry of ‘wolf’, there comes a time when words or apology lose any significance.
This post examines the many instances where the Act has enabled damage to Aboriginal heritage in WA. These are cases where the Act’s protections have been sidelined, often followed by statements of regret and desire to work toward a better system. The events regarding damage in Juukan Gorge, and responses to that, reveal this familiar pattern … and the need for fundamental change.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputwebsite
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2020


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