Australia sets plan to safeguard Aboriginal heritage

STORY: The government accepted all but one recommendation out of the eight from last year's parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the historically and culturally significant site at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, Plibersek told parliament. The recommendation of whether the final responsibility for heritage protection should sit with the Indigenous affairs minister or the environment minister is still being assessed, Plibersek said.

“These reforms are not about stopping development or halting progress. They’re about redressing an imbalance, our oldest imbalance," Plibersek said.

Widespread outrage at the destruction of the site put a focus on industry practices and cost the jobs of Rio Tinto's then-chief executive and two other senior leaders and led Chairman Simon Thompson to step down in May.

The rock shelters had showed evidence of human habitation dating back 46,000 years into the last Ice Age and the destruction caused deep distress to the site's traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples. The traditional owners said they were angry and disappointed that they had not been consulted about the government's response.