William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


Alex Wawryk


In 2020, the multinational mining company Rio Tinto destroyed 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock paintings in Juukan Gorge, Western Australia, to national and international outrage. The incident led to an explosion of concern in Australia regarding the adequacy of domestic laws that aim to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage from the impacts of resource exploitation. This Article explains and critically analyzes the legislative and regulatory framework for the protection of Aboriginal heritage in relation to mining in South Australia. It demonstrates the complexity of the legal and regulatory regime, identifies a number of significant flaws in the key act designed to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage—the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (SA)—and discusses options for, and barriers to, legal reform.