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Thursday, 25 September 1997
Page: 8605

(Question No. 2076)


Mr Bevis asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 25 August 1997:

(1) Does his Department negotiate with local Aboriginal communities on matters concerning access rights, living areas and sacred site protection at Defence training areas and other Defence establishments; if so, what arrangements have been negotiated for each training area or establishment.

(2) Who is responsible for negotiating arrangements on behalf of his Department.


Mr McLachlan —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes. Defence acknowledges the need for protection and conservation of culturally significant sites and supports the provision of access onto or through Defence property for the purpose of assessing, maintaining or visiting such sites. Other forms of access such as permanent or long term occupation of camps or out-stations, and hunting or fishing activities are not generally compatible with Defence management of the training areas.

The nature of activity undertaken by Defence on training areas, and the requirement to exercise duty of care, dictates the necessity for controlled access. Determination of a right to access is assessed against possible conflict with Defence use of the property and is guided by safety considerations. Access to a site for cultural, educational or ceremonial purposes will generally be granted provided no military activity is impeded. If there is an obvious hazard in accessing a particular site, for example, as a result of the possible presence of unexploded ordnance, escorted access will be considered.

Where range management plans are being prepared or revised for specific training areas, it is common practice to include a cultural heritage assessment and to seek input through consultation with representatives of interested groups. In such cases, Defence representation is normally provided by local Defence staff. Where more substantial access is being sought, representatives of Defence Estate Organisation and other government agencies are usually involved in negotiations.

Formal access arrangements are in place covering Shoalwater Bay Training Area and RAAF Base Scherger in Queensland; Yampi Training Area in West Australia; Beecroft Weapons Range in New South Wales and Larrakeyah Barracks and Kangaroo Flats Training Area in the Northern Territory. Where military training activity does not preclude the granting of access, that access is granted following notification to the local Base Commander or Range Control organisation. The terms and conditions of these arrangements essentially form the basis for other arrangements under negotiation and for periodic grants of access to other Defence properties.

Other access arrangements are currently being negotiated over the Delamere Range Facility in the Northern Territory, following an Aboriginal Land Claim over that area, and the Land Warfare Centre, Canungra, Queensland, in relation to proposed environmental and archaeological studies, and Point Wilson in Victoria.

(2) The Head of the Defence Estate Organisation or his representative is responsible for negotiating aboriginal access arrangements.