Brewery ruling threatens Aboriginal heritage

Wednesday, October 23, 1991 - 10:00

Brewery ruling threatens Aboriginal heritage

By Leon Harrison

PERTH — In a setback to Aboriginal plans to demolish the old Swan Brewery, the full bench of the Supreme Court has upheld an appeal by the WA Development Corporation and the state government against a previous Supreme Court decision to halt development on the site.

The Lawrence Labor government is pleased with the decision because, if the redevelopment plans go ahead, it will set a precedent for overturning Aboriginal heritage legislation.

Greg McIntyre, formerly with the Aboriginal Legal Service, said the Supreme Court decision "may require Aboriginal people to establish property or a right to the land that is based on the property concept". The law had difficulty recognising spiritual interests as opposed to temporal or property interests.

Aboriginal leader Robert Bropho, who opposes redevelopment of the site, has a spiritual interest in the area, in that it is sacred to Aboriginal people. The Supreme Court decision refused to recognise this interest.

Justice Anderson declared, "I do not think that a member of a group of people with a particular subjective concern to protect or preserve a particular site whether for its perceived environmental or spiritual or cultural or heritage qualities obtains [legal standing] merely in virtue of that concern, however profound that concern may be".

However, Chief Justice Malcolm dissented, saying that Bropho and the group he represented did have sufficient interest in the decision to be allowed natural justice and standing.

From GLW issue 32