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Message to Aboriginal Victorians: The Government Knows Best April 24, 2006

Posted by campsovereignty in Press Statements.
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Camp Sovereignty representatives today condemned the decision by the State Government to suspend forty eight cultural heritage inspectors and remove the ability of inspectors or magistrates who can make emergency declarations of cultural significance.

The State Government is seeking to restrict emergency declaration power to the Minister and to amend the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act of 1984. Voluntary, community based inspectors would be replaced by public servants. A mechanism will be introduced in VCAT for developers who disagree with declarations of significance by Aboriginal People.

The move is seen as an embarrassed response by the State Government over the public attention caused by the declaration of the Sacred Fire as being culturally significant following protests during the Commonwealth games.

Robbie Thorpe, spokesperson for Camp Sovereignty, called the decision "Yet another example of the racist and colonial attitude that they know what's best for our people. The Government has a problem with one declaration and instead of trying to understand and resolve the issues behind this declaration, they have punished all Aboriginal People who attempt to maintain and promote their culture".

It is believed that the government will seek to employ inspectors who are compliant to the wishes of the government.

"They are simply firing the existing Inspectors so they can replace them with those who will tow the line on what Aboriginal culture and heritage is. As soon as Aboriginal People make decisions for themselves that the Government doesn't like, they take away all of their power. This is an abhorrent abuse of State power and should be condemned by all Australians who have any sense of justice" said Mr. Thorpe.

State Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings said that it 'was critical that people had confidence in Aboriginal cultural heritage protection laws'. Mr. Thorpe responded: "He obviously meant non-Indigenous people; because this legislative move sure doesn't inspire any confidence in our people."

"The issue of the Sacred Fire has exposed this Governments intent to ensure the death of our culture. They seem to think that our culture is in the past and should only be protected in the sense that it is put in a glass case in a museum. "

"What we have shown the public of Victoria is that Aboriginal culture is alive and well; that we haven't ceded sovereignty over our own religious practise; and that we will not roll over and allow the Government to dictate to us what our culture should look like. This new legislation should be seen for what it is; the continuation of the 236 years of cultural genocide that has been practised by this and previous Governments.

The message to Aboriginal Victorians from the Victorian Government? We know what's best.

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