Protecting Our Places

The Protecting Our Places program encourages and empowers Aboriginal communities to protect, conserve and restore landscapes and waterways important to them.

This program is open to applications for the 2024 round, closing at 5 pm on Tuesday 2 April 2024.


This program empowers and provides opportunities for Aboriginal organisations to undertake projects that:

  • contribute to ongoing sustainable management of significant Aboriginal cultural landscapes in New South Wales
  • contribute to healthier environments and communities
  • develop project management capabilities of Aboriginal groups
  • encourage new collaborations and positive relationships with other organisations, government and stakeholders.

Project stages

Projects under the Protecting Our Places program are implemented over 2 stages:

  • Stage 1 – planning from 6 to 12 months in duration
  • Stage 2 – implementation from 18 to 24 months in duration.

Note: Projects do not automatically progress from Stage 1 to Stage 2. After Stage 1, projects are assessed against criteria, and successful projects are invited to participate in Stage 2.

See the Protecting Our Places program guidelines 2024–25 for more information.

Funding available

Grants of up to $80,000 are available over the 2 stages:

  • Stage 1 Planning – up to $12,000 for project planning.
  • Stage 2 Implementation – up to $67,000 to complete the project on-ground works, plus $1,000 quarantined for the mandatory financial audit, totalling $68,000.

Note: A funding cap of up to 30% must be allocated towards the employment of a project manager to manage and coordinate all project activities across both stages of the project.

See the Protecting Our Places program guidelines 2024–25 for more information.

For each grant recipient, we will coordinate and deliver face-to-face workshops for 2 key staff/participants in your project at the beginning of Stage 1. In addition, proposed grantees are strongly encouraged to invite an Elder to participate in these workshops to act as a community representative, knowledge holder and relevant cultural authority.

These workshops will provide you with:

  • support and guidance to develop a plan specific to your project
  • mentoring, advice, and networking opportunities
  • an understanding of the Trust's reporting requirements.

Matching funding

You do not have to contribute matching funds, however, your application may be more competitive if you can match the funding you seek from the Environmental Trust. You can make:

  • financial contributions – money from your organisation or project partners
  • in-kind contributions – donations of goods, services, staff time, expertise, or use of facilities or equipment.

Types of activities funded

Protecting Our Places program guidelines 2024–25 explains what we will fund.

Different activities are eligible in each stage – planning and implementation. No on-ground works will be funded during the Stage 1 Planning stage.

Support available

The Trust encourages all eligible Aboriginal organisations to apply regardless of your project management experience, as support to develop and deliver a project plan is available. In the planning stage of the project, we can help you:

  • identify your project's key stakeholders
  • determine what permits, licences and approvals you may need
  • prepare a Project Implementation Plan (which includes how to monitor and evaluate your project).

We provide:

  • project management and training specific to your project
  • support to help you develop your Project Implementation Plan
  • access to online tools, resources, and support for continued help over 12 months
  • periodic project management support and advice over the life of the project.

At any time during the project, you can ask us for advice about managing the project.

The following NSW Aboriginal community organisations/groups may apply:

  • NSW Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs)
  • NSW Aboriginal Corporations registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006
  • NSW Incorporated Associations registered under Associations Incorporation Act 2009
  • Non-distributing NSW Co-operatives registered under Co-operatives National Law and associated Acts*
  • NSW Registered Native Title Body Corporates (RNTBC).
  • Australian Public Company Limited by Guarantee operating as a Registered Charity under the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
    Note: applicants under this category must also demonstrate** that their organisation's primary objective is to support members and/or persons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) descent in New South Wales.

Other Aboriginal organisations and groups are eligible to apply, however, these entities will need the support of another organisation that will perform the role of External Manager.

*Associations and Co-operatives will undergo additional eligibility checks to ensure they are not-for-profit/non-distributing and that the organisation's objectives and activities seek to provide benefits for and involves the participation of local Aboriginal people and communities.

**Charities registered under the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission must provide a copy of their constitution to prove that their primary objective is to support ATSI persons and, where possible, a letter of support from either the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, their Local Aboriginal Land Council or another registered Aboriginal organisation listed above.

Who can't apply?

We won't fund applications from:

  • non-Aboriginal groups, organisations, or companies
  • individuals
  • industry joint ventures
  • profit-distributing corporations or co-operatives (limited by shares).

If you are unsure if your organisation can apply, contact the Trust.

Who can be involved in the project?

All projects must be led by an Aboriginal organisation. However, you should consider partnering with relevant groups or individuals. These could be:

  • other Aboriginal groups
  • local councils
  • state agencies (for example, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water)
  • non-government organisations
  • local community groups
  • universities
  • private businesses
  • landholders.

You must show that all partners have a real role in the project.

For more information about partnerships, see the Protecting Our Places program guidelines 2024–25.

If you can't find partners, your organisation can still apply for a grant if it is eligible.

Applying for a second grant

You can apply for a grant even if you already have an active project funded under the Protecting Our Places program.

If your first project is still active, we will assess your ability to manage and deliver more than one project at a time.

If your first project is completed, we will consider how well you managed and delivered it.

We assess all applications against specific criteria. See the Protecting Our Places program guidelines 2024–25 for details.

Applications are assessed by an independent technical review committee with members from the general community, industry, and government. Most members of the committee are Aboriginal.

Before you submit your application, check that it answers these questions:

  • what is the environmental outcome you want to achieve?
  • what types of activities do you intend to carry out?
  • what planning processes will you carry out?
  • how will you monitor implementation and project risks?
  • does your project represent good value for money (that is, acceptable expenditure to achieve a realistic environmental benefit)?
  • do you have the support of the community and other stakeholders in the project?


Getting your planning right at the beginning will help you deliver your project, report on its progress, and demonstrate how it improves the environment of New South Wales.

Your grant application will cover much of the information you will need to consider in your planning, so use that as a starting point.

If your grant application is successful, you will be invited to attend 2 compulsory project management workshops where you will receive help to further develop your Project Implementation Plan and build your capacity to deliver the plan.

Your project implementation plan will set out monitoring and reporting activities you will have to carry out during your project. See the Protecting Our Places program guidelines 2024–25 for details.

Progress reports and final report

As you move through your project you will have to submit progress reports. These will outline what you have achieved and explain what you will do next.

Progress reports are reviewed by technical experts who will ensure you're on the right track and give you feedback or advice. After your report is reviewed and accepted the Trust will pay your next grant instalment.

When your project finishes, you will have to submit a final report describing what the project and your team have achieved.

Financial reports

When you complete Stage 1 of your project (the planning phase) you will have to submit a Stage 1 Financial Report. We must approve this before you can start Stage 2 of your project (the implementation phase).

When it is time to submit your final project report, you will need to submit an audited financial report from a suitably qualified person, and we will set aside $1,000 of your grant money for this purpose.

Stage 1 Financial Report (DOCX 49KB)

If you need to rearrange your project’s budget, you must apply for a budget variation.

See the financial reporting page for more details.

Other documents

Successful projects will be invited to sign a grant agreement which may ask you to submit other documents or evidence during the life of the grant.

Where to send reports

Email reports and other documents to (50MB limit).

Acknowledgement requirement

Projects that receive Environmental Trust funding must acknowledge the funding you have received from the Trust in all publications and materials related to your project. We ask that you say:

This project has been assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.

You also need to use the New South Wales Government logo. See Funding acknowledgement and logos for details.

If your organisation is unincorporated, or you need help managing your grant, you can partner with another organisation who will act as an external manager (previously known as a project administrator).

The external manager becomes responsible for overseeing the financial management of your grant. Your organisation remains the lead applicant for the grant (the grantee).

The external manager must be an incorporated or registered organisation.

If we give you a grant and you use an external manager:

  • the external manager signs the grant agreement with us (the Environmental Trust) on your organisation's behalf
  • we make the grant payments to the external manager
  • the external manager prepares all the financial reports and makes any payments related to the project
  • your organisation is still responsible for carrying out the project.

Download the Protecting Our Places role of the external manager tips and information for more details.

Role of the external manager (PDF 663KB)

Aboriginal land and cultural heritage

NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC)

NSWALC can tell you about:

  • the land your project is on
  • how to develop your project in conjunction with local Aboriginal communities and organisations.

NTSCORP and the National Native Title Tribunal

These bodies can tell you if the location of your proposed project is affected by native title.

Environment and Heritage – Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

We can provide information about a number of aspects of Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Conservation and rehabilitation

Local Land Services (LLSs)

Your Local Land Service can tell you about:

  • natural resource management priorities
  • sources of project funding
  • broader regional programs.

Local councils

Your local council can tell you about:

  • its local environmental plans
  • successful environmental projects in your district.

Australian Association of Bush Regenerators

Greening Australia


  • contacts for local Landcare groups
  • information to help with restoration and rehabilitation.

Education projects

The organisations below can help you:

  • develop your project
  • reach your target audience
  • contribute to wider projects for Aboriginal communities
  • use Indigenous language correctly
  • document oral history.

Aboriginal Educational Consultative Group (AECG)

NSW Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee

The council:

  • offers information on interpretation projects it has funded in New South Wales
  • can advise on how to register and protect heritage items.

The most recent round of the program was in 2023. In this round we:

  • received 6 applications requesting a total of $549,919
  • awarded grants to 4 projects totalling $311,105

Project summaries

We have all our contestable grants programs independently evaluated from time to time. Inca Consulting evaluated the Protecting Our Places program in late 2015. The evaluation focused on the delivery of the program, and the projects it funded, during 2009 to 2014.

We considered and accepted the final evaluation report (PDF 766KB) in March 2016.

The report raised many issues, and we developed an administrative response (PDF 365KB) to address them.

In 2017 we made changes to the Protecting Our Places program, including changes to the funding model.

MAGIC undertaking a cool mosaic burn at Rick Farley Reserve