Culture and heritage

Aboriginal cultural heritage


The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) protects and conserves Aboriginal culture and heritage across NSW as well as all cultures and the heritage landscapes located in NSW parks and reserves. Conservation involves identifying, assessing, protecting and maintaining the important cultural and heritage values of landscapes, resources, places, objects, customs and traditions so that we, and generations to come, can enjoy, learn from them, and appropriately manage these values.

OEH refers to the Burra Charter in assessing, planning for and managing the heritage for which it is responsible and has incorporated the principles and logic of the Burra Charter into guidelines and other conservation planning documents. The Burra Charter is a guide for conserving and managing places of cultural significance and sets a professional standard of practice for those who provide advice, make decisions about, or undertake works to places of cultural significance, including owners, managers and custodians.

OEH uses cultural heritage management strategies when allocating funds to conserve high-priority cultural heritage values. The strategies identify key sites, assign management priorities and outline the considerations in managing these sites. OEH's Historic Heritage Asset Revitalisation Program (HARP), for example, allocates available funding to the highest priority planning and on-ground works across the NSW park system. This process considers a range of factors including the significance of the cultural heritage values of a site, the risk involved in not undertaking the works, community interaction with the site, and the site's financial sustainability.

'Adaptive reuse' can be a way of preserving heritage while retaining financial sustainability. Adaptive reuse is when we upgrade and modify buildings or places as part of our conservation efforts. It enables a new use to be introduced or an existing use continued. The restoration and adaptive reuse of Smoky Cape Lighthouse and Lighthouse Keepers cottages in the Arakoon State Conservation Area is an example of OEH achievements in the adaptive reuse of historic heritage. The Smoky Cape Lighthouse and cottages have been conserved and now generate revenue as bed and breakfast and other accommodation with sweeping ocean views.

OEH uses its Adaptive Reuse of Heritage Places Policy to inform plans of management, conservation management plans and other relevant planning processes. Places that lose relevance or purpose can become vulnerable to neglect, decay and possibly demolition. Inappropriate use can also jeopardise heritage conservation. The Adaptive Reuse of Heritage Places Policy provides guidance to Parks and Wildlife Group staff within OEH on planning and managing use. The policy can be dowloaded here: Adaptive Reuse of Heritage Places Policy (120898ARHPP.pdf 133KB).

OEH also has a role in protecting and conserving Aboriginal cultures and heritage across NSW. Some of the ways we do this is by assisting communities to:

  • assess and document objects and places in the landscape to improve the understanding of the nature and distribution of Aboriginal heritage
  • conserve and restore culturally significant objects and places in the landscape, for example maintaining Aboriginal cemetery sites
  • work with the NSW Government to manage natural resources in culturally appropriate ways
  • return Aboriginal remains, cultural materials and knowledge back to Aboriginal people and communities
  • declare Aboriginal places as protected under legislation
  • promote co-management of Country with Aboriginal people.

See an example of conservation in action with our video, Managing Aboriginal Rock Art, which offers some very important insights into Aboriginal culture and the contemporary management of Aboriginal sites.

OEH's Aboriginal culture and heritage conservation activities are aimed at improving the wellbeing, sense of identity and cultural self-determination of Aboriginal communities across NSW.

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Page last updated: 19 June 2013