01 March 2021

Sussan Ley must be stripped of responsibility for Aboriginal heritage protection

The ongoing destruction of Aboriginal sacred and culturally important sites by mining corporations has made Environment Minister Sussan Ley's authority over First Nations heritage untenable.


When Rio Tinto destroyed the Juukan Gorge caves, senior Rio Tinto executives stepped down, including their CEO. Since then, destruction of Aboriginal heritage sites has continued unabated across the country.

As the Minister responsible for protecting these sites, Sussan Ley has signally failed in her duty to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to the country. The Prime Minister should immediately strip Ley of her authority over Aboriginal heritage protection, and transfer responsibility to the Minister for Indigenous Australians.

To prevent yet more destruction of Aboriginal heritage on their watch, the Federal Government should immediately enact a nationwide moratorium on projects that require any works around cultural heritage until the new legislation is in place

GetUp First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin said:

“Sussan Ley is presiding over a continent-wide epidemic of cultural destruction — and doing absolutely nothing to stop it. She should be stripped of her authority over Aboriginal cultural heritage. That responsibility should rest with Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt, who must immediately put a moratorium on heritage-impacting mining projects in place until the Juukan Gorge inquiry releases its findings.

“Ever since Rio Tinto blew up the Juukan Gorge caves in May 2020, Sussan Ley has scrambled to avoid responsibility and deflect blame — all while doing nothing to prevent mining corporations from further destroying Aboriginal heritage.

“In the last month alone, BHP and Fortescue have been caught damaging and destroying sacred and culturally important sites. Incredibly, Sussan Ley has responded by ignoring calls from land councils and her government’s own experts to bring in greater federal protections for Indigenous heritage sites.

“Mining giants can’t be trusted not to destroy Aboriginal heritage, and Sussan Ley has failed to stop them. We need an immediate nationwide moratorium on any mining projects impacting cultural heritage until legislation is changed to ensure that destruction like we saw at Juukan Gorge can never happen again.”