Sensitivity Warning

First Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.

Briefing paper


The destruction of a cultural site of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, which has evidence of 46,000 years of continual human occupation, by mining giant Rio Tinto has attracted national and international condemnation. The company’s actions at Juukan Gorge were lawful, though wrong, due to the weak protections offered by the outdated laws in Western Australia relating to Aboriginal cultural heritage. But Western Australia is not alone. The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW) came just two years after the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA) and is similarly outdated. Aboriginal people in New South Wales have been trying to strengthen the law that is supposed to protect their cultural heritage since the late 1970s, but reform remains elusive. Meanwhile hundreds of important sites continue to be destroyed. Failed appeals by Aboriginal custodians to the Commonwealth only reinforce the need for urgent law reform at every level.

Publication Details
License type:
All Rights Reserved
Access Rights Type:
CAEPR Topical Issue 3/2020