Liberal Member for Western Victoria, Simon Ramsay MLC, has requested an official investigation into the conduct of the office of Aboriginal Victoria.
Mr Ramsay has raised his concerns in the Victorian Parliament and written to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Natalie Hutchins.
Mr Ramsay asked for the review following Aboriginal Victoria’s recommendation to maintain the Cultural Heritage listing on the Anakie quarry site.
“I want the Minister to confirm in the Victorian Parliament that the office of Aboriginal Victoria has acted in good faith in its assessment of a contentious 42-hectare proposed quarry site near Anakie, north of Geelong,” Mr Ramsay said.
Mr Ramsay advised the Parliament last week that Geelong building materials supplier, Aerolite Quarries Pty Ltd, had been notified that the office of Aboriginal Victoria was preparing to recommend that the quarry site continue to be listed on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register.
The company has until 28th April to comment in response to the draft recommendation.
Mr Ramsay said that the aboriginal significance of this area has been questioned by the Government’s own consultants and local aboriginal elders.
“Four experts advising the Minister have found that the grounds are weak for counting the site among the known Aboriginal places in Victoria under the name Anakie Youang.
“I’m advised that a local aboriginal elder, Trevor Edwards, has signed a statutory declaration that he has not heard of an aboriginal story about three scoria cones in the vicinity.
“Aboriginal Victoria claims these cones are linked to a ‘Lowan’ – or creation story – about three sisters. These cones would make the area of aboriginal significance,” Mr Ramsay said.
One of the advisers to the Minister’s Department, Dr Andrew Seddon of the University of Queensland, has indicated that the cones fail to reach the threshold for listing.
“He has said they don’t meet the levels required for anthropological, historical, social, spiritual or contemporary significance,” said Mr Ramsay.
In January, VCAT granted permits for further quarrying on the site. The City of Greater Geelong was also advised by Aboriginal Victoria that there was no need to create a cultural heritage management plan for the site.
“That is why it now beggars belief that Aboriginal Victoria is recommending ongoing registration of the site despite evidence that did not support grounds for listing.
“If the registration is successful all activity at the site would stop. This would potentially force the closure of Aerolite Quarry and the 50 employees would lose their jobs.
“My understanding is that VCAT, the Wathaurong Aboriginal Corporation, Geelong City Council and, to date, the Victorian Government are all happy that the listing is no longer required.
“Aboriginal Victoria is now the only body challenging the evidence.
“Some may question the real motivation behind Aboriginal Victoria’s actions in this case.
“The academic and substantive evidence suggests that there are no grounds for Cultural Heritage Listing anymore.
“As such, why is Aboriginal Victoria proceeding with its recommendation to maintain the listing?” Mr Ramsay said.