Redefining heritage: ‘​It is critical the feedback is objective and unfiltered’

New legislation is aiming to expand the government’s definition of Indigenous cultural heritage.

An information session on draft legislation was held by the Office of Environment and Heritage at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre on Wednesday, lead by independent facilitator Marcia Ella Duncan.

“There has been a community perception the system is about the destruction of cultural heritage, not protection,” Ms Ella-Duncan said.

“What is being proposed creates a clearer pathway in decision making for Aboriginal people. 

"It’s like our churches, when we go to a place it’s a spiritual place."

Djiringanj and Ngarigo Elder, Aunty Colleen Dixon

“It also acknowledges intangible cultural values on landscape, or oral history, and specific species.”

Ms Ella-Duncan said issues such as stronger compliance provisions will be likely promoted by communities, and a statewide body consisting of Indigenous people will be compulsory.

How the body will be formed is part of the consultation process.

Ms Ella-Duncan said the state government is actively seeking feedback, and there has been bipartisan support for the legislation for many years.

“It is critical the feedback is objective and unfiltered community feedback,” Ms Ella-Duncan said.

“Most people are here with more than just their personal hat on, so they need time to go back to their community.”

The Gulaga Dancers perform during the session opening.

The Gulaga Dancers perform during the session opening.

Along with broader recognition of cultural heritage values, better information management, improved protection management and conservation, and building greater confidence in regulatory systems are also being put forward in the draft legislation.

Following the information session, the department will return to the Far South Coast next month for interactive workshops.

Djiringanj and Ngarigo Elder, Aunty Colleen Dixon, said the department needed to consult with communities.

“National parks have not listened to our people,” she said.

“They are not coming to us and sitting down, we don’t want our sites destroyed.

“It’s like our churches, when we go to a place it’s a spiritual place.”

Ms Dixon said local land knowledge would help departments tackle environmental issues such as erosion.

“We know what’s on our land, we know what’s in our country,” she said.

“Our heritage is very important to us, and we don’t want to play into what the government wants.

“My ideal situation would be to leave the sites alone, let our people deal with it.”