Legislative Council: Tuesday, October 17, 2023


Aboriginal Remains, Riverlea Park

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:05): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question regarding Aboriginal heritage and the Buckland Park housing development Riverlea.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: On Thursday 28 September, I asked the minister a question regarding Aboriginal remains discovered at the new Riverlea estate in the Walker Buckland Park development north of Adelaide. It had been estimated that at least 31 individuals had been uncovered in two areas and that more than 1,200 artefacts, including spear and boomerang tips, had been found in the development.

I thank the minister for his letter dated 11 October addressing my concerns regarding issuing a stop-work order to ensure that discoveries were managed with cultural sensitivity, respect and in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act. However, it has since been stated online that some individuals may have taken Aboriginal artefacts home as souvenirs. Under section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, it is an offence to damage, disturb or interfere with an Aboriginal site, object or remains. This offence carries a penalty of $10,000 or six months' imprisonment.

My question to the minister is: can the minister please advise whether or not this so-called 'souveniring' has taken place and, if so, what action has the minister or his department taken to ensure the safe retrieval of those artefacts as well as to address that situation?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:07): I thank the honourable member for her question and for her advocacy over many years for Aboriginal people in South Australia.

In relation to the question the honourable member asks about the removal of items from the Riverlea development area, I am not aware of any such removal of items. I am advised, as I mentioned in my ministerial statement, that the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation department is in regular contact with the Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation and the developer as well as onsite Kaurna monitors. I am informed that discussions happen multiple times a day on many occasions. I am also informed that the remains are closely monitored and are securely stored inside the development compound with a security presence, I am advised, 24 hours a day.

As I said, I am not aware of any evidence for an assertion that may have appeared online. I occasionally get informed of assertions that have appeared online in relation to this as well as other projects and other things that occur; often it is something someone has heard that has been put up online. Such is the nature of social media.

If there were any instances of removal of Aboriginal remains or the disturbance of Aboriginal heritage occurring outside of any authorisation, that would likely constitute an offence under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, and I would like to reaffirm, in unequivocal terms, that anyone who does that would open themselves up to prosecution under that legislation.