Juukan Gorge report highlights need for legislative change

Rio Tinto has welcomed the final report of the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia following its inquiry into the destruction of rock shelters at Juukan Gorge.

Titled A Way Forward, the report highlights the need for legislative change at Commonwealth, state and territory levels to ensure the protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.

Rio Tinto detonated explosives at the sacred Juukan Gorge site in Western Australia in May, 2020.

The site held evidence of human habitation dating back 46,000 years, devastating the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people.

The report makes eight recommendations focusing on legislative change that will enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s cultural heritage protections.

This includes that there should be an Australian Government review of the Native Title Act 1993.

Rio Tinto Australia chief executive Kellie Parker said significant changes have been made at all levels of Rio Tinto’s business and this is continuing.

“Our determination not to repeat the events leading up to the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters is ingrained in everything we do,” Parker said.

“While we are confident we have put in place the right foundations for a better future, we know we will be judged by our actions and we are determined to get it right.

“The important work of the Committee has helped reinforce our priorities as we work to rebuild trust.

“We will continue to work in close consultation with Traditional Owners to better understand and protect their cultural heritage and ensure future mining activity is done in the right way, to create meaningful social and economic benefits.

“We thank the PKKP people and Traditional Owners everywhere for their engagement as we continue this vital work.”

Committee chair Warren Entsch said he was proud of the hard work that went into the development of the report.

“I am very pleased with the recommendations that have been made to tackle the problem of inadequate cultural heritage protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Entsch said.

“In tabling this report it is the Committee’s desire that we will Never Again see an event such as Juukan Gorge and that as a country we now have A Way Forward to protect the world’s oldest living culture.”

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