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Juukan Gorge inquiry to question BHP

Issue date: Wednesday, 16 September 2020

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The parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites at Juukan Gorge will continue tomorrow with a public hearing featuring BHP.

Northern Australia Committee Chair Warren Entsch says while the Juukan Gorge caves were destroyed by Rio Tinto, the protection of Indigenous heritage sites is important for mining companies operating across Australia.

‘The Committee is aware of reports that BHP has put on hold plans to destroy sites sacred to the Banjima people in the Pilbara,’ Mr Entsch said.

‘Tomorrow’s hearing will give us an opportunity to explore how BHP is approaching the issue in the aftermath of Juukan Gorge.’

In addition to BHP, the hearing will bring together significant organisations with differing views, with the Kimberley Land Council and Western Australia’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy scheduled to provide evidence.

‘The destruction at Juukan Gorge has highlighted the fact that, despite the best of intentions, Indigenous heritage areas lack adequate protection,’ Mr Entsch said.

‘We must ensure that state and federal law provide effective protection to Indigenous culture and heritage sites.’

The Kimberley Land Council is critical of the right to negotiate provisions of the Native Title Act, arguing that ‘the operation of the right to negotiate provision effects a form of legislative force or coercion on native title parties’ and that ‘any inquiry into the adequacy of heritage protection laws should take into account the interaction between these laws and the NTA, in particular the future act provisions’.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy Western Australia argues that an ‘increase in Federal oversight on Aboriginal Cultural heritage will only serve to damage the agency of Traditional Owners to make decisions on the management of their country’. It recommends that State legislation retains primacy on regulation of cultural heritage, without introduction of duplication at a Federal level.

Programs are available on the Committee’s website.

Public hearing details

Date: Thursday, 17 September 2020
Time: 1:00pm to 4:00pm AEST
Location: By video/teleconference

The hearings will be broadcast live at

Further details of the inquiry, including terms of reference, can be found on the Committee’s website.

Media inquiries

Hon Warren Entsch MP, Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia
07 4051 2220

For background information

Committee Secretariat
02 6277 4162

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