Tasmanian Aboriginal community prepares for battle over heritage laws

The Tasmanian Government plans to give an Irish school teacher the final decisions on the future of First Nations sacred relics.

Michael Mansell, Legal Director
Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre
Michael now has a new fight on his hands.

Tasmanian Heritage Minister Bryan Wightman

Wightman has only been in politics for three years and already he believes he has enough understanding of the worlds oldest culture to have the final say on all decisions relating to the future of their sacred objects.

ABC Online 27 July 2013

Aboriginal leader Michael Mansel says ultimate power would remain in the hands of the Minister.

Tasmania's Aboriginal community is gearing up for a stoush with the state government over new laws designed to protect indigenous heritage.

The proposed Aboriginal Heritage legislation would see the establishment of a council of indigenous representatives to provide advice on the protection of relics threatened by development.

But Michael Mansell from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre said the laws left ultimate power in the hands of the Heritage Minister.

He said the laws are pro-development and would only create conflict.

"We'll protest, get arrested, be dragged through the courts, put in jail if necessary," he said.

The Heritage Minister Bryan Wightman agreed he would have the final say but stands by the legislation.

"I have done all I can to make sure that we have a balanced approach," the Minister said.

"Balance when it comes to dealing with the protection of aboriginal heritage in Tasmania and also certainty for developers in Tasmania.

"It is not a situation where everybody will get exactly what they want."

The bill is due before Parliament after the winter break but there are already threats of a High Court challenge.

"It's almost bound to see the state government whipped into the High Court the moment this legislation comes into being because this legislation is racially discriminatory," Mr Mansell said