Legislative Council: Tuesday, October 31, 2023


Aboriginal Remains, Riverlea Park

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:55): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing questions to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about the discovery of Aboriginal remains at Riverlea.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I didn't need to make an explanation. My questions for the minister are:

1. Has the minister been briefed on how the Aboriginal remains were not discovered in earlier stages of this project?

2. Given the significant concerns raised by Kaurna community members, does the minister believe that the decision-making process regarding the reinterment of the remains is transparent and inclusive?

3. What additional steps are being taken to identify and protect other potential sites across the state?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:56): I thank the honourable member for her questions and her interest in this area. In relation to the discovery of remains and trying to make sure that these things are known about or discovered earlier, it is quite a difficult area because, by the very definition of discovering remains, you have already disturbed the ground for those remains to be discovered.

It would be a difficult thing to know where all burial grounds are over a large area. On a continent that has had tens of thousands of years—thousands of generations—of human occupation, it is a simple fact of history that for nearly all parts of this state and all parts of this nation there has been human interaction with that country that has included people living there and in a lot of areas people's ancestors being buried there. In an ideal world, you would have a knowledge of exactly where all ancestral remains may be buried, but the facts often are that they are not discovered until there are ground-disturbing works that occur.

In relation to the member's other questions, yes, it would be great to have an absolute knowledge of where these things are. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Aboriginal sites and Aboriginal objects on the central archive that is kept by the department, but just because something isn't on the central register that the department holds does not mean it's not afforded protection under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, which has been in place since 1988.

I think her final question, which was her second question, is in relation to taking into account people's views about the treatment of ancestral remains when they are discovered, as has happened in this case through ground-disturbing works. There is a process that is currently underway under the Aboriginal Heritage Act. That process will run and there has already been, and continues to be, extensive consultation, so the views of traditional owners and I think the language under the legislation is 'other Aboriginal people with an interest' are taken into account when there are decisions made about how Aboriginal heritage is managed.