Culture and heritage

Aboriginal heritage

Declaration of Aboriginal Places in NSW

 

Clearing and grove of trees in Summit Forest

Summit Forest

Aboriginal Places are a way of legally recognising and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage on public and private lands. Under section 84 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974), the Minister for the Environment may declare land as an Aboriginal Place when it is or was of special significance to Aboriginal culture. An area can have spiritual, historical, social, educational or other significance or could have been used for its natural resources.

Aboriginal Places protect ceremonial and spiritual values and areas containing objects such as middens, burials, reburials, Bora rings and rock art.

An overview of Aboriginal Places in NSW comprises a short history, types of Places and numbers of Places declared to 2011.

Search for Aboriginal Places

The State Heritage Inventory is a list of heritage items in New South Wales including Aboriginal Places. Search for detailed information including maps, photos, location information, gazettal notices, and an explanation of the significance for each of the declared Aboriginal Place.

Nominations

The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) strongly welcomes nominations for Aboriginal Places supported by the local Aboriginal community, as Aboriginal people are the main determinants of Aboriginal cultural significance. OEH will support the Aboriginal community in considering:

  • their aspirations for a site
  • other available mechanisms for a site
  • the risks to and ways of enhancing a site’s cultural values
  • longer-term site management issues.

If you want to suggest an area that could be declared an Aboriginal Place, please complete and submit the Aboriginal Place nomination form .

Assessment and declaration process

Where Aboriginal Place declaration is selected by the Aboriginal community or applicant as a preferred conservation outcome, OEH sets out a clear assessment process.

Once an Aboriginal Place has been assessed and then declared, a plan of management is generally developed by the Aboriginal community with OEH and landowners. This plan ensures longer-term cultural, access and management needs are met and helps to prevent the site from being damaged.

Protection

Under section 86(4) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974), it is an offence to harm or desecrate a declared Aboriginal Place. Many thousands of other Aboriginal heritage sites also receive protection under this Act. Harm includes destroying, defacing or damaging an Aboriginal place. If development will take place in the vicinity of an Aboriginal Place, the potential impacts of the development on an Aboriginal Place must be assessed.

Management plans

Where there is a proposal to declare an Aboriginal Place, OEH encourages the preparation of a formal management plan by the landowner/ land manager or occupiers with agreement with the Aboriginal community.

If harm is proposed to an Aboriginal Place then an AHIP should be applied for. An applicant for an AHIP can refer to a management plan for an Aboriginal Place where a plan exists, when assessing impacts of the development. A management plan identifies values and usually sets out what actions would or would not be considered to harm the values.

Where a management plan is in place this will provide a clear record agreed by the Aboriginal community of:

  • actions that will not harm the values of the place and that will not require an AHIP
  • actions that would harm the values of the place and would need an AHIP, but may not be acceptable in certain situation and with certain controls
  • any harming actions for which OEH would generally refuse to issue an AHIP.

Links

OEH Aboriginal Places Policy (110608Abplacespolicy.pdf 83KB)

OEH Aboriginal Place Nomination Form (110616Abplacenomform.pdf 80KB)

Guidelines for developing management plans for declared Aboriginal Places (120137abplacesgdlns.pdf 136KB)

Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System (AHIMS)

For general information about Aboriginal Places and their protection, see: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Protection.

Contacting OEH

If you need information and advice on Aboriginal Places, please contact the Country, Culture and Heritage Division Regional Manager in your local region:

Community Operations Branch, Central: (02) 9995 5000
Community Operations Branch, Far West Region: (02) 6969 0700
Community Operations Branch, North West Region: (02) 6881 4611
Community Operations Branch, Northern Region: (02) 6659 8294
Community Operations Branch, Southern Region: (02) 6229 7177

Aboriginal Heritage Information Unit: Email: ahims@environment.nsw.gov.au

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Page last updated: 16 February 2016