After a pandemic-related pause in March 2020, the Queensland Government has recommenced its review of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 and the Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Cultural Heritage Acts) with the release of its ‘Options paper’ in December 2021.
The paper seeks to build on the earlier stakeholder consultation and analysis, with the aim of finalising the review to ascertain whether the Cultural Heritage Acts are performing as they should and whether there are any requisite amendments.
In doing so, the paper sets out the following three proposals for reforms to the Cultural Heritage Acts:
- Providing opportunities to improve cultural heritage protection through increased consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, recognising intangible cultural heritage, strengthening compliance mechanisms, and imposing greater reporting obligations on proponents.
- Reframing the definitions of ‘Aboriginal party’ and ‘Torres Strait Islander party’ so that people who have a connection to an area under Aboriginal tradition have a greater opportunity to be involved in cultural heritage management and protection.
- Promoting leadership by First Nations peoples in cultural heritage management and decision-making.
The implications of the above are potentially wide-ranging and include uncertainty in land use processes, extended mandatory consultation timeframes and consultation with multiple parties, and increased penalties for non-compliance.
In response, the Queensland Government is requesting feedback, with submissions due by 31 March 2022. All submissions will be publicly available and published on the Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnership’s website.