Traditional Owners are outraged, the West Australian government has decided not to prosecute a granite mining company accused of destroying a culturally significant site in the East Kimberley region.
A government inquiry was launched after Kimberley Granite Holdings allegedly damaged a heritage site near Halls creek after starting mining work prior to seeking approval in 2019 and exporting granite from the site to China.
But after nearly three years of investigation, Western Australia’s Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage said, “there is no reasonable prospect of prosecution under the Aboriginal Heritage Act”, and said the site was not formally registered under the act until May 2020.
In a statement, the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) said the mining company damaged the Garnkiny and Jawaren sites, which are significant men’s and women’s places, and at least two burial sites on the Malarngowem determination area on Kija country, between 2019 and 2020.
KLC also said a Malarngowem Traditional Owner and custodian of the Garnkiny site, suffered significant distress because of the harm done by Kimberley Granite Holdings, and said his family was adamant there was a link between the damage to his country and the custodian’s passing.
Before his passing, the late Mr R. Peters, provided evidence about the damage to country, in a statement:
“When I first heard about the mining, I was shocked. I didn’t know about it. I didn’t give the company permission. I didn’t give anyone authority to make this decision for me,” said the late Mr Peters.
“I thought it had stopped. This makes me very worried as I have to give permission for such things to happen on Darrajayn country. I’m not going to stop worrying, white people cutting our culture up.”
Kimberley Land Council CEO, Brian Wilkinson said the government’s decision not to prosecute is deeply concerning.
“If these blatant breaches of the law that result in destruction of Aboriginal Heritage sites do not result in prosecution – then what does?”
The decision not to prosecute Kimberley Granite Holdings is yet another example of why the proposed new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill (ACH) should be opposed, as it incorporates much of the same flawed thinking that underlies the current Aboriginal Heritage Act.
WA’s new draft heritage laws are still yet to be finalised and presented in parliament.