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Federal Environment Minister is undermining Aboriginal Heritage Protections

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 23 Aug 2016

Greens Senator for Tasmania, Peter Whish-Wilson, says that new Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, by joining with the Hodgman Government in the Federal Court appeal to re-open the four-wheel drive tracks in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, is setting a precedent that may undermine all Aboriginal cultural protection across the nation.

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “The Federal Government has joined with the Tasmanian Government in arguing that cultural heritage protections only refer to specific sites and artefacts and not the landscape that they reside in.

“Josh Frydenberg, as Minister responsible for Aboriginal heritage, is actually using the resources of his agency to set a precedent that will weaken existing protections. Landscapes are intrinsically inseparable from artefacts and a Federal Minister should not be trying to break this connection to country.

“The only court case that should be going on regarding this issue should be based upon prosecuting the vandals that have damaged Tasmania’s ancient Aboriginal heritage.

"Respect for our First Peoples starts with our leaders. What examples are politicians setting by openly challenging the spirit and wishes of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation?

“I and the Australian Greens strongly support the position being taken by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation in the Federal Court.

“I have seen first-hand the damage that has been done in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area. The damage is not limited to a single-track, the damage is widespread and many times it appears that some cultural landscape sites were actively targeted for damage.

“The cultural heritage of this area is its landscapes, which are themselves huge ancient middens and other sites of cultural significance.

"This can only be protected be keeping uncontrolled recreational vehicles away from these special areas. There are hundreds of kilometres of tracks available to recreational drivers in Tasmania where they can drive without disrespecting our unique cultural history and First Peoples,” he concluded.

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