26 September 2023

First Nations get more say in heritage

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Australia’s First Nations people and communities are to have a greater influence over the inclusion of places in the National and Commonwealth Heritage lists under a new policy from the Australian Heritage Council.

In a statement, the Council said its Free, Prior and Informed Consent Policy outlined the approach it would take when working with Indigenous people to obtain their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in the nomination and assessment of places for inclusion in the Heritage lists.

“In all cases where there may be Indigenous rights or interests in a place that is nominated, the Council seeks to obtain the FPIC of relevant Indigenous peoples before providing advice to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, as well as to obtain the views of other members of the broader Australian community on a nomination,” the Council said.

“In certain cases, this may require further time to be taken for proper engagement with Indigenous people, before the Council provides advice on particular nominations to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment,” it said.

“The Council recognises that determining FPIC in practice will depend on the context of the particular case.”

The Council said in each case, it would seek to determine questions such as from whom FPIC should be appropriately sought; at what stage of an assessment it should be sought; what form consent could take; and how to characterise FPIC in cases where there were disagreements.

“Seeking FPIC will ensure that the Council is effectively fulfilling its duties as well as contribute to a National and Commonwealth Heritage List which fully embraces the diversity, complexity and wonder of Australia’s rich heritage,” it said.

The Council’s three-page Policy can be accessed at this PS News link.

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