Nov 24th 2022

New protections for First Nations heritage sites needed to give a future to the past

The work is urgent - communities need a clear timeline for the implementation of this legislation

We welcome the federal government’s decision to legislate new protections for First Nations heritage sites - two years on from the destruction of Juukan Gorge, and after numerous failed attempts of laws to protect and listen to Indigenous leaders.

The inquiry highlighted that this disaster was not a one-off and there were significant flaws in our laws protecting First Nations cultural heritage. 

Right now there are no comprehensive federal laws that protect cultural heritage and a patchwork of state and territory legislation that’s inconsistent and leads to the destruction at Juukan Gorge.

Getup CEO, Larissa Baldwin-Roberts said:

“While we appreciate there is a consultation phase, our communities need a clear timeline for when this legislation will be implemented. The work is urgent - whilst we continue to wait, hundreds of cultural heritage sites are at risk. 

“What happened at Juukan Gorge was an enormous tragedy, but we see this kind of destruction nationally - and each and every site deserves recognition, respect and protection.

“Over 170,000 people have signed GetUp petitions, we’ve had thousands of submissions from our members, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and we’ve worked directly with Traditional Owners from across the country to get their recommendations into the final report.

“One of the key findings throughout all of our work was that the public thought this cultural heritage legislation already existed. 

“We put our sites at risk when Traditional Owners don’t have an equal seat at the table - investment needs to be made to ensure that this legislation receives adequate First Nations consultation with cultural groups, not just government bodies.

“This announcement to enshrine legislation is enormous. Traditional Owners must have the power to refuse projects impacting cultural heritage and we need harsher penalties for corporations who destroy cultural heritage, giving Traditional Owners the right to pursue damages.

“It is everybody's business to protect our cultural heritage sites and we must ensure this legislation is implemented. This work has been ongoing for over a decade and it’s tied into the bigger work of repatriation.

“We have an incredibly rich First Nations history and culture and the government needs to make decisions that value it correctly and the decisions around cultural heritage protection need to sit with the Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Linda Burney and the Hon Malarndirri Macarthy."

Media contact: Amy Morgan,, +61 2 8188 2870