Aboriginal elders and community members will protest against
the new Aboriginal Heritage Act at this year’s May Day March
Sunday 6 May 2pm Trades Hall
Victoria's new Aboriginal Heritage Act is just another act of dispossession, says Wurundjeri elder and traditional owner, Annette Xiberras.
Indigenous Victorians are furious about new State government laws that will restrict Traditional Owners from exercising their rights over land under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
"Victoria's new Aboriginal Heritage Act is supposed to protect Aboriginal rights. What a joke. As a Wurundjeri elder, entitled to speak for the land around Melbourne, I won't have the same rights that I have to do that any more under the new laws," said Ms Xiberras.
Under the current legislation, the Wurundjeri people have the right to say yes or no to the disturbance of their cultural places. This right is being taken away under the new Act as developers will be able to challenge an Aboriginal organisation’s decision in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
"Our people suffered some of the most severe and intense genocide in this country. Not a single Aboriginal person in Victoria today has been brought up in the traditional way, knowing their traditional language and having access to their sacred lands. That's because of invasion, agriculture, gold mining -- our people were taken from our lands and brought up in missions, our children were stolen and lied to about their heritage.
"Despite that, our elders have managed to hold onto significant, living traditions. Wurundjeri people know who they are, Yota Yota people know who they are, Gournditchmara people know who they are. It seems the only people who don't know that are the State Government..
A major concern to traditional owners across the state is the ability of Aboriginal people with non-traditional connections to country successfully obtaining Registered Aboriginal party status under the new Act:
"What is the point of being a Traditional Owner with native title rights if there's no way to exercise those rights? If the State Government really supports Aboriginal rights why did they fight the Yota Yota people in a court case that told those people they'd been washed away by history?
Ms Xiberras has also slammed the Government for not consulting with Aboriginal people, industry and local government over the new Act:
“The Government has not asked Victorian Aboriginal people what they want from the Act. Instead they have given us information sessions telling us what they are going to do and then calling that consultation.
She said that the Act is not realistic and that industry, farmers and small landowners will suffer under the unnecessary red tape and complex assessment processes.
"Even small battlers in the bush who want to put a new shed up will have to pay for an official cultural heritage assessment, which will cost them around $6,000 every time.
"The problem is not farmers and small landowners. The problem is that the Act does nothing to redress the real injustices for Victorian Aboriginal people.
"Bracks needs a rocket up him to take note of Aboriginal issues, and that is exactly what he's going to get on May Day and ongoing. The Victorian government is on notice to respect the rights of traditional owners, as our protest will tell him."
Annette Xiberras, Wurundjeri elder, is available for comment or interviews about this issue by calling 0410 44 04 64.