Culturally informed decision making or sponsored collusion? A commentary on the role of Aboriginal community consultation in the facilitation of cultural heritage destruction in NSW. (17164)
In both state and federal jurisdictions a core part of statutory decision making regarding Aboriginal cultural heritage significance is the reasonable requirement for consultation with the Aboriginal community of interest. In New South Wales the guideline document Aboriginal Community Consultation requirements for proponents 2010 (DECCW, 2010) has its statutory basis in Clauses 80C and 80D of the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009. These guidelines outline the expected process to be adopted by proponents in the actual or likely event that they will require an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP) in order to conduct proposed activities on their subject land. An AHIP is required under Section 90 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) if physical harm to Aboriginal objects is an anticipated consequence of development.
With case studies drawn from the authors participation in Aboriginal consultation processes, triggered by the development objectives of large multinational coal mining enterprises within the New South Wales Hunter Valley, this paper evaluates the purported intent of the current Aboriginal consultation guidelines against the reality of their implementation. With a view drawn from traditional owner experience the paper highlights the fact that Aboriginal heritage protection is increasingly compromised by a blurring of the distinction between consensus agreement and sponsored collusion in the decision making opportunities afforded Aboriginal community participants via consultation. For traditional owners the blurred parameters of Aboriginal consultation as practiced in New South Wales is a critical issue since the loss of Aboriginal objects, places and landscapes of cultural value to them is the all too familiar result.