Culture and heritage

Aboriginal people and cultural life

Aboriginal people have lived in NSW for more than 40,000 years. There's evidence of this everywhere, in rock art, stone artefacts and sites across the state. If you thought Aboriginal heritage was just about rock art, think again. Aboriginal culture is much bigger than this. It's a living, ongoing thing that is deeply linked to the entire environment.

Places

Aboriginal places of significance range from small ceremonial sites to enormous mountains. In fact, everything in the landscape can have special meaning for Aboriginal people.

Learn more places of significance to Aboriginal people in NSW

View the NSW Atlas of Aboriginal Places

Objects

Aboriginal objects are physical evidence of the use of an area by Aboriginal people. These include stone tools, rock art and scarred trees.

Experiences

Natural environment

Aboriginal heritage is inseparable from the natural environment - from individual plants and animals to ecosystems. The land and waterways are associated with dreaming stories and cultural learning that links Aboriginal people with who they are and where they belong.

Learn more about Aboriginal people and biodiversity

Through Land Alive, an Environmental Trust-funded project under the BioBanking Scheme run by OEH, Aboriginal landowners were able to create jobs and business opportunities while managing Country for conservation. The Land Alive program was completed in 2011.

Land management

Three Aboriginal Land Management Guides outline the range and type of government programs available to assist Aboriginal groups access and use public lands, and assist Aboriginal and other landholders manage land access and natural resources.

Under a joint management arrangement, the government and local Aboriginal people share responsibility for a park's management.

Protecting Aboriginal culture and heritage

Aboriginal cultural heritage is legally protected in NSW. Protecting Aboriginal heritage means far more than looking after sites in parks or artefacts in museums. Aboriginal people access land to renew cultural learning. And they have to be involved and consulted in the conservation of the natural environment.

Find out about OEH's regulation of Aboriginal cultural heritage

Working to Protect Aboriginal Culture and Heritage is a guide illustrating the ways OEH commits to the 'Aboriginal people, the environment and conservation principles' of spirituality and connection, cultural resource use, wellbeing, caring for Country and doing business with Aboriginal people.

OEH policies and programs

The Aboriginal Languages Policy forms part of the NSW Government Aboriginal Languages Strategic Plan and guides OEH staff and consultants employed by OEH in the use of Aboriginal languages.

The Aboriginal Regional Assessment Policy explains OEH's position and principles when undertaking Aboriginal Regional Assessments, to ensure the values of Aboriginal communities are included.

The Management of Aboriginal Cultural Material Policy and Guideline guide OEH staff in the professional and culturally appropriate management of Aboriginal cultural material.

Aboriginal Places can be declared by the Minister for Environment to protect areas and sites that are important to Aboriginal communities.

OEH's Repatriation Program has a large collection of Aboriginal skeletal remains and cultural material and is working on ways to return these to the communities they belong to.

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Page last updated: 19 March 2014