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Gold Prospecting e-News, Issue #83 - Proposed Aboriginal Heritage Act - Submissions Closing Soon
October 01, 2020

Proposed Aboriginal Heritage Act - Submissions Closing Soon

Link to Aboriginal Heritage Bill

"What is Cultural Landscape?"

APLA Newsletter Excerpt

What is a Secret and Sacred Object?

Penalty for Serious and Material Harm

What Can the AH Councils Charge You?.

Written Submissions Can be Lodged Here.

Corona Virus WA Travel Update Pages.

How to Put in a Submission to the Aboriginal Heritage Bill

Gidday All

I have had a lot of people enquire about how they can respond and provide comments to the proposed Aboriginal Heritage Act, the response period closes on 9 October 2020.

Thank you to all for your input and replies including those (sorta abusive ones) that suggest no-one has the right to oppose control of the whole of WA by a small percentage of the population, or to comment on Legislation because it has the word "Aboriginal" in it.

Our Previous Newsletter here

Proposed Aboriginal Heritage Act How will it Affect You? referred to this Bill and our reservations about how it will impact on our rights to go prospecting in the future.

APLA have written another Newsletter about this and if you are an APLA member you would have received that already.

With the confusion about this Aboriginal Heritage Bill I think it is CRUCIAL that you put in your comments and concerns about it.

You can do that here- (Link NO Longer Relevant RemoveD)

but you will find that the carefully structured, guided and biased nature of this document is difficult to respond to in a way that can show your honest concerns about the Bill and it's unintended future consequences and impact.

There is simply too much in this Bill that is unexplained or unknown.

Other parts of the Bill give draconian penalties and powers to this commission and its "Inspectors" to interfere with peoples rights to go prospecting in WA.

In fact I do not understand why there is the need for another separate Law Enforcement group to be formed like this.

Regulations can be Changed Without Reference to Parliament.

Once this Bill is passed the Regulations that come after will define specific rules and actions relating to the Bill.

Those are not known or defined yet AND those regulations can be changed at will without reference to Parliament.

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What is a "Cultural Landscape"?

No-one has defined "Cultural Landscape" and that could refer to a specific area or the whole of WA so even though the Bill only (Supposedly) refers to current Heritage Sites, it also refers to "Cultural Landscape" and that could mean the whole of WA - It is just NOT defined or known.

Of course if it refers to the whole of WA then the "Low Impact" tier comes into play everywhere as "Land" is defined as the whole of WA in the Bill.

i.e. You will not be able to disturb the ground or dig a hole without approval of the committees outlined and no doubt with significant fees attached.

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APLA Newsletter Excerpt

SIDEBAR : (please note: Udo and I are members of APLA but NOT involved on their Executive or in any of the discussions about this Act - these opinions are OUR views not those of APLA)

Here is an excerpt From a Newsletter from Amalgamated Prospectors and Leaseholders Association.

"Aboriginal Heritage (AH) Bill 2020

This Bill has now been released for public comment. Along with other representative bodies, APLA has been sworn to secrecy over the last two years. But its now out in the open. We’ve had two sessions on the Bill to sort out some confusing issues within it. Here’s what we know so far – and it isn’t much.

  • 1. This Bill will only apply where Aboriginal Heritage is known to exist.
  • 2. “Protected sites” are only those sites of State Significance and there are only 80 of them in the State.
  • 3. There are hundreds of other sites on the current Aboriginal Heritage Register (AHR) but these are not the “Protected Sites” referred to in this Bill. There is a far higher level of scrutiny and proof for “Protected Sites”.
  • 4. The term “Cultural Landscape” has been clarified to APLA. It means that such an area may include several known sites in a particular land space but we could work or operate in such landscape areas but not within the actual known sites. Imagine a circle within which 3 sites may be located. Those 3 sites within that circle are off-limits for any disturbance while the remainder of the circle is “open for business”.
  • 5. Whether we can metal detect AND dig up any targets within an AH area is still open to further clarification by DPLH.
  • 6. Whether we can mark out a prospecting licence, digging trenches within an AH area is still open to further clarification by DPLH."
APLA has also queried the punitive aspects of the bill as well."

NOTE and so should you, they are draconian. remember also that APLA is questioning the impact relating to Prospectors but to "Disturb the Ground" for ANY PURPOSE is covered in this Act.

"APLA continues to seek further improvements but we've been told that this is the final edition and no changes will be made prior to the Bill being introduced into the Lower House of the WA Parliament."

The point is that there is a lot of unknowns in this Bill and they have not been explained satisfactorily to us, the citizens of Western Australia.

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What is a Secret and Sacred Object?

What are these?

"Secret or sacred object means an Aboriginal object that is secret or sacred to Aboriginal people in accordance with Aboriginal tradition;"

You can be fined $10000 if you have a secret or sacred object and don't tell the AHC about it - but how would you know what is a "Secret or Sacred Object"?

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What are the Activities Defined Under the Act?

Some examples of the tiered approach to approvals are taken from the FAQ and I will repeat them here as they are important to understand.

Minimal Impact

Minimal impact activities may include light vehicle patrols, metal detecting and maintaining and refurbishing existing facilities, including recreation and camping facilities, water points, signs and other structures.

Low Impact

Low impact activity means any activity that involves minor ground disturbance, and may include digging pitfall traps and temporary trenches for small animals; and establishing temporary camps for exploration, environment or conservation purposes, where the establishment of the temporary camp does not require the removal of trees or shrubs and does not require any earthworks.

A Permit is Required for Low Impact Activities

"A permit is required for low impact activities. Proponents will be required to notify the Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Service or relevant Aboriginal parties prior to submitting an application for a permit. The new Council will also publish any permit application online prior to deciding whether to grant the permit."

Activities greater than this level will require a Heritage Management plan

"It is expected that anthropological and environmental surveys may be required by proponents as part of their due diligence, and to support the development of management plans."

You might be able to go metal detecting but you will not be able to dig the gold out of the ground that you find - you will need a permit to do that !!

That Permit seemingly has a number of time consuming steps:

  • Notify the local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage or Aboriginal parties , prior to,
  • Submitting an application for a permit, which will be published online (and charged for of course) prior to,
  • Deciding whether to grant the permit.

You can clearly see the time, cost and inefficiencies driven into this process already. AND that is for a "Low Impact Activity".

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Penalty for Serious and Material Harm

What constitutes serious harm and material harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage?

"(From the Act Division 2, page 58)
(1) Harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage is serious if the harm is —
(a) irreversible or of a high impact or on a wide scale; or,
(b) to Aboriginal cultural heritage that is —
(i) a protected area; or
(ii) within a protected area.

(2) Harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage is material if the harm is neither trivial nor negligible.

(a) for an individual —
(i) imprisonment for 5 years or a fine of $1 000 000, or both;
(ii) a fine of $50 000 for each day or part of a day during which the offence continues;

(2) Despite The Criminal Code section 23B(2), it is immaterial for the purposes of subsection (1) that any event occurred by accident."

The penalties range down from there to "Harm to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage" which is $25000 for a private person, but interestingly enough an event happening by accident is immaterial, really?

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What Can the Councils Charge You for Reports and Services?

Also note that there is no definition of the commercial aspects of this bill about how much these groups can charge to do the heritage and other "Approval to Dig a Hole" reports.

The fees information is provided on Subdivision 3 — Fee for services provided by local ACH service page 33 of the proposed Bill.

These fees can be enforced in court if not paid.

"A local ACH service may charge a fee for services that it provides in connection with the functions set out in section 32."

My Understanding it the Government has said that it is up to the AH committees to decide charges and that commercial aspect will not be interfered with by the Government.

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Written Submissions Can be Lodged Here.

If you are concerned about this Bill please complete the document here or better still write a submission to the "Aboriginal Heritage Act Review" and head it "Aboriginal Heritage Act Submission" Written submission can also be provided by:


Aboriginal Heritage Act Review Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage
Locked Bag 2506
Perth WA 6001

There is no doubt in our minds that this process of introducing the Aboriginal Heritage Bill has been carefully structured to defray criticism and a careful analysis of what the bill entails, don't fall for it!

This is being bulldozed through Parliament and that is not acceptable.

You, The Public, have had NO Input into it at all and discussions with industry groups have been confidential up until now and unable to be shared.

Read the bill and put in a submission outlining your concerns, there is a lot of gaps and unexplained parts within it.

Aboriginal Heritage Act Submissions Page
Here are some links to the Updated Corona Virus Travel Updates pages. Corona Virus Latest Updates Page

WA Corona Virus Roadmap Controls from 18 May 2020

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Gold Prospecting WA Facebook Page

... Remember you have until 9 October to submit your submission - please do so..


Udo and Bill

Nobody gets ALL the gold. There’s still plenty left for you.

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