Culture and heritage

Aboriginal cultural heritage

Aboriginal objects

Aboriginal objects are physical evidence of the use of an area by Aboriginal people. They can also be referred to as 'Aboriginal sites', 'relics' or 'cultural material'.

Aboriginal objects include:

  • physical objects, such as stone tools, Aboriginal-built fences and stockyards, scarred trees and the remains of fringe camps
  • material deposited on the land, such as middens
  • the ancestral remains of Aboriginal people.

Handicrafts made by Aboriginal people for sale are not 'Aboriginal objects' under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act).

Known Aboriginal objects and sites are recorded on OEH's Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System (AHIMS). If you find an object, you should report it to us.


Stone tools
See how tools were made by grinding or flaking stone, and learn how to look for signs of Aboriginal toolmaking in the bush.

Aboriginal scarred trees

Thousands of surviving trees in NSW bear scars resulting from removal of bark or wood by Aboriginal people in the past for the manufacture of canoes, shields and other artefacts. These scarred trees are one of the most common yet least understood items of Aboriginal heritage.

Rock art

Rock art is amongst the oldest surviving human art forms. There are a number of different styles of rock art used across NSW, both of paintings and drawings and rock engravings.


The primary piece of legislation which protects Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW is the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act). Under the NPW Act it is an offence to harm (destroy, deface, or damage) or desecrate an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place, or in relation to an object, move the object from the land on which is has been situated.

Finding Aboriginal artefacts

Penalties exist for anyone who knowingly or blatantly takes or collects Aboriginal artefacts.

If you find an Aboriginal artefact, you must leave it where it is and report the artefact and its location to the Office of Environment & Heritage. Even if you believe the artefact is in danger of being damaged the best thing to do leave it alone and report it immediately.

If you do mistakenly take an artefact or find yourself in possession of one, please return it to your local Office of Environment & Heritage office.

More Information

Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigation of Aboriginal objects in NSW

Regulation of Aboriginal cultural heritage

Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System


Page last updated: 24 September 2012