Culture and heritage

Aboriginal heritage

2013 reform model for Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW

The NSW Government is committed to implementing new stand-alone legislation that respects and protects Aboriginal cultural heritage for current and future generations, and which provides clear and consistent processes for the economic and social development in NSW.

The reform model proposed by the NSW Government in 2013 was based on a set of reform principles, feedback from previous phases of public consultation, the recommendations of the Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Working Party, and research. This model is currently being revised to respond to the feedback received during the third phase of public consultation.

The key principles of the 2013 reform model were:

  • respect for Aboriginal culture, to recognise Aboriginal people's responsibility and authority over their own cultural heritage and their right to expect protection for significant cultural values
  • legislative balance, to recognise the needs and interests of different groups within the community and to deliver social, economic and environmental outcomes in the best interests of all people in NSW
  • government efficiency, to reduce red tape, duplication and unnecessary state intervention in local issues
  • best-practice principles, to raise the benchmark of performance and deliver a diverse range of Aboriginal cultural heritage benefits.

Key features of the 2013 reform model included the following.

  • All provisions for Aboriginal cultural heritage moved into stand-alone legislation.
  • New definitions and objectives to better reflect the spectrum of values to be protected.
  • Local decision-making through local Aboriginal cultural heritage committees, which would comprise Aboriginal people with the cultural authority to make decisions about heritage management.
  • Support from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Heritage Division and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee (ACHAC).
  • An Aboriginal cultural heritage Register to improve information management.
  • The creation of Aboriginal cultural heritage maps and plans of management by the local Aboriginal cultural heritage committees, in consultation with others holding cultural knowledge. The maps and plans of management would identify key Aboriginal cultural heritage values and conservation priorities, and inform land-use planning and development assessment and negotiation processes.
  • A new process to require development proponents to consult and negotiate with local Aboriginal cultural heritage committees.
  • A new, more flexible form of regulatory approval – the Project Agreement – which would replace Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits and better accommodate developments of different types and sizes.
  • Mandatory maximum timeframes for negotiating project agreements, along with dispute resolution and appeal processes.
  • Clearer unexpected-finds processes.
  • Compliance and enforcement provisions, including offences, penalties, defences and exemptions.

Public feedback on the 2013 model

Public feedback on the government’s 2013 reform model was gathered through 19 workshops attended by over 800 people, 147 written submissions and 67 questionnaires. This input, including summary reports of the feedback, is publicly available. It is being used to revise the reform model and prepare draft legislation for further public comment.

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Page last updated: 22 December 2016