Separating the Voice and Aboriginal cultural heritage debates

Aboriginal cultural heritage act and the Voice

A few weeks ago, my nephew asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. Uncle Daniel, if you want to put in a new pool, will you have to get permission from the Voice?

My nephew is a terrific young man, and I am glad he felt comfortable asking. It enabled us to have a good chat about fact and fiction in two conflated debates.

Factsheets for the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act on the WA Government website reveal that swimming pool installations, like many other activities, are exempt. And, of course, these laws have nothing to do with the proposed Indigenous Voice to federal parliament.

But, I understand the confusion.  The two issues can be thematically linked, they are happening at the same time, and both could have been explained better. Deceptive online campaigning linking the two issues isn’t helping either.

I don’t envy those looking for fixes to the new heritage Act. We’ve gone from the 1972 laws, where all property owners had obligations on Aboriginal heritage, but largely didn’t know about them or chose not to comply, to a regime where most people are now exempt, but believe they are at risk.

It will take a big effort, on both policy and communication, to unscramble that egg. I’ll check in with my nephew in a few months to see how it’s going.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.


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