Legislative Council: Tuesday, October 17, 2023


Ministerial Statement

Aboriginal Remains, Riverlea Park

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:26): I seek leave to make a ministerial statement in relation to Aboriginal heritage.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I rise to provide an update on the discovery of Aboriginal ancestral remains within the Riverlea Park development project. Multiple historical burials were found during project earthworks at two sites. Forensics SA has confirmed that those remains are Aboriginal ancestral remains. Two isolated bone fragments have also been discovered at other project locations. Forensics SA also say these are very likely to be historic Aboriginal remains.

The first discovery of remains was on 27 April 2023. On 6 June 2023, in accordance with the wishes of the Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation, a direction was issued under the Aboriginal Heritage Act requiring the developer, the Walker Corporation, to allow KYAC to excavate within the first discovery area. This was sought to ensure the exposed remains were protected from the elements and was performed by KYAC heritage monitors in a culturally sensitive manner.

However, during that excavation work the increased scale of the burial site became apparent, and on 23 August 2023 the direction was rescinded, with the treatment of those remains to be determined through the developer's application for authorisation under section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

I am advised that no excavation of any Aboriginal remains has occurred within the project since 23 August 2023. If any further burials are discovered, they must be avoided unless and until the corporation receives authority under the Aboriginal Heritage Act to move or otherwise manage them.

In total, as of today, I am advised that 29 sets of remains and two isolated bone fragments have been identified across the entirety of the project area. I am advised that all works have ceased in the two burial sites identified.

As the body that represents Kaurna people's native title rights and interests, KYAC has worked in close partnership with the Walker Corporation for several years to ensure any discoveries of Aboriginal heritage were treated respectfully and in compliance with the act. Archaeologists from Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation remain in regular communication with KYAC, the developer and other stakeholders, including through onsite visits and inspections.

I am advised that in March 2023, prior to the first discovery, the developer had applied for an authorisation under the Aboriginal Heritage Act in relation to the project. Over the past months, the department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation has been consulting with traditional owners and other interested Aboriginal people about that application. The department expects to finalise that consultation and deliver a report in the coming months.

The final management of all Aboriginal heritage within the project boundaries will therefore be decided via that authorisation request. As this matter remains subject to an active authorisation request under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, in the interests of procedural fairness there will be limited public statements about the matter at this time.

I reiterate and emphasise that no excavation of Aboriginal remains is currently permitted or occurring within the project and that KYAC and the Walker Corporation are working in close cooperation to ensure this is managed appropriately and in accordance with the law.