Traditional Owners astounded at South Australian Government’s flawed consultation process and protection of ancestral remains at Riverlea housing development as Walker Corporation seeks to fast-track approvals for additional sites
7 November 2023
Kaurna Traditional Owners are once again astounded at the South Australian Government’s lack of respect for Aboriginal cultural heritage, with Minister Maher again breaching his legislative requirement to consult with Traditional Owners and interested Aboriginal parties before making decisions that impact Aboriginal cultural heritage.
On 25 October, some 10 days after the official consultation period closed on 16 October 2023, the SA Government announced that the consultation period in relation to the application under the Aboriginal Heritage Act by Walker Buckland Park Developments Pty Ltd was to be extended until Friday 17 November 2023. This was to allow Walker Corporation to vary their initial application to include an additional three sites for development. The deadline has since been extended further to Friday 24 November, though no further in-person consultation meetings have been scheduled, despite requests from the community for this to occur.
Representatives of the Kaurna People recently met with Premier Malinauskas, where they were informed of the extension. They were under the impression that the purpose of the extension was to rectify issues of inadequate consultation to date, and give the government more time to engage with other Kaurna Native Title Holders, Kaurna Elders, Kaurna people and other interested Aboriginal people. Instead, it is to allow Walker Corporation to include an additional three areas in their application, saving them having to go through another troubled consultation period while attempting to fast-track approvals for the additional sites.
Quotes attributable to Uncle Ian Carter, Kaurna Elder, Traditional Owner & Common Law Holder:
“We thought the government was extending the consultation period to do what they had failed to do so far, which is to fulfill their legal requirement to consult properly with the Kaurna community, but we were wrong. It appears that this is just a ploy by the South Australian Government to allow Walker Buckland Park to sneak through an additional three areas to their application and fast-track their approval without having to go through the consultation process again.”
“If Minister Maher wants to show any good faith to Kaurna peoples, he must halt this farcical consultation process and begin again.”
“All Kaurna people should be consulted on this. We believe the remains of up to 300 of our ancestors are under threat and the actions so far suggest that nothing will be done to protect them from being removed.”
“All documents, reports and contractual details between the parties involved in the Riverlea Development, including cultural heritage management plans, must be shared with the whole Kaurna community before any further consultation occurs.”
“The Ombudsman must investigate what appear to be deliberate efforts to deny the Kaurna people their legislative rights to be consulted fairly.”
“We are currently seeking legal advice and exploring our options for holding the Minister and his government to account for their legal obligations to properly consult with First Peoples over the protection of our ancestors’ remains and cultural heritage.”
Quotes attributable to Natasha Wanganeen Natasha Wanganeen, proud Kaurna, Narranga, Ngarrindjeri, Nyoongar mother, actor and activist:
“As caregivers and caretakers of over 500,000 years of cultural tradition and history we do not want that destroyed so houses can be built on the graves of our ancestors."
“It is our right to protect and conserve our history, as much as and if not more, than anyone else in this country."
“I will not be part of the destruction of the true history of this country and the culture of this land.”
Quotes attributable to Senator Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman and Independent Victorian Senator representing the Blak Sovereign Movement:
“This decision by the South Australian government is an insult to Traditional Owners who are fighting to protect and preserve their culture and Ancestors’ remains.”
"This is yet another example of how colonial laws work to protect the interests of governments and private corporations and have little regard for First Peoples' cultural heritage or even the remains of our ancestors."
"Current cultural heritage laws set a very low bar for engagement with First Peoples, yet the South Australian government is not even able to meet this low standard.”
“If Labor governments in this country properly respected First Peoples and our cultural rights, they would ensure that they are genuinely engaging with all Traditional Owners and First Peoples in the community who are invested in protecting one of the most significant burial or massacre sites in the country.”
“Government engagement with Traditional Owners should always uphold First Peoples’ Rights as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.”
"The Juukan inquiry has shown that we need an urgent overhaul of First Nations heritage protection in this country. Yet two years after the inquiry delivered its report and recommendations, we are yet to see more than lip service given to their implementation. I urge the Albanese government to progress these reforms without delay, as every day more of our cultural heritage and Ancestral resting places are being destroyed.”
Documents relating to the consultation and government’s administration of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1998 (SA) are available upon request.