Like much of the world, QSNTS was appalled at the destruction of Juukan Gorge by mining giant Rio Tinto in May 2020. The ancient rock shelters, showing human occupancy dating back 46,000 years, held great cultural significance and were destroyed despite Traditional Owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People, communicating the importance of the sacred site to the mining company.

The incident prompted a parliamentary inquiry, with the Joint Standing Committee releasing a final report – A Way Forward – in October 2021 that offers eight key recommendations.

QSNTS' CEO Kevin Smith has been appointed to the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance Leadership Group that recently signed a partnership agreement with the Australian Government to co-design a model that addresses the report’s recommendations (listed below). He was also appointed to be on the Joint Working Group to achieve the outcomes set forth by the partnership agreement.

At the state level, QSNTS' CEO Kevin Smith, and Principal Legal Officer Tim Wishart, sit on the steering committee of the review into the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.

A summary of the Joint Standing Committee report recommendations is as follows:

1. The Australian Parliament should amend the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to make the Minister for Indigenous Australians responsible for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage matters.

2. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government ratify the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003.

3. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government legislate a new framework for cultural heritage protection at the national level. The legislation should be developed through a process of co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

4. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government review the Native Title Act 1993 with the aim of addressing inequalities in the negotiating position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the context of the future act regime.

5. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government endorse and commit to implementing Dhawura Ngilan: A Vision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage in Australia.

6. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develops a model for a cultural heritage truth telling process that may be followed by all Australians−individuals, governments and companies−as a part of any process to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their cultural heritage.

7. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government establish an independent fund to administer funding for prescribed body corporates (PBCs) under the Native Title Act 1999.

8. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government increase the transparency and accountability requirements on Prescribed Body Corporates (PBCs) and Native Title Representative Bodies under the Native Title Act 1999 to require that they demonstrate adequate consultation with, and consideration of, local community views prior to agreeing to the destruction/alteration of any cultural heritage sites.

We recommend that time is taken to read this very important report.