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Issue #1922      July 6, 2020

Development threatens Indigenous sites in Canberra

One month since Rio Tinto’s blasting of the Juukan Gorge, Australia’s Indigenous heritage is again under threat. The Doma Group, a property development company, is planning to build an apartment complex at the base of Mount Ainslie in Canberra, over the top of a sacred Indigenous site. The site also contains survey markers placed during the planning of Canberra as a capital city.

More outrageously, traditional Ngunnawal and Ngambri owners have never been consulted about the development, even after a 2013 ACT Environment Directorate report advised that the site has Indigenous significance. As early as 1933, stone artifacts were documented at the site. There is no excuse for Doma Group’s negligent handling of Australia’s history. Just as Rio Tinto knew what they were destroying, Doma Group has full awareness of the site’s history. This is part of a clear and repeated pattern of corporations violating Indigenous land and heritage for profit. Last week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr called for a complete halt to the development, and the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has asked the Environment Department to review the case. This is a promising development, but unless severe pressure is put upon the Environment Minister, nothing is likely to change. What is needed is a comprehensive overhaul of how Indigenous heritage is treated.

Ngambri Elder Shane Mortimer has been a vocal opponent of the development and has started an online petition with over 5500 signatures. “It’s a place of shared history,” he says, of the Indigenous and European artifacts found at the site. “When you talk about reconciliation, there couldn’t be a better demonstration of shared history than this site,” He also wants a federal inquiry into the lack of binding provisions for examining Aboriginal heritage issues across most Australian jurisdictions, in light of the Juukan Gorge incident. The actions of Rio Tinto, as morally bankrupt as they were, were completely legal under Western Australian law. The Ainslie site is under the administration of the National Capital Authority, and if they allow the development to go forward, Doma will have a green light to bulldoze Australia’s history.

Next article – Nationalise Qantas!

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