Previous reform model for Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW

In 2013 the NSW Government proposed a reform model for Aboriginal cultural heritage. This model drew on work done in previous years and forms the basis of the current proposed new system.

The NSW Government is committed to implementing new stand-alone legislation that respects and protects Aboriginal cultural heritage for current and future generations. The government also aims to provide clear and consistent processes for economic and social development in New South Wales.

Reform model

The 2013 reform model proposed by the NSW Government in 2013 formed the basis of the phase 3 consultation conducted from September 2013 to March 2014. The model was based on a set of reform principles, feedback from previous phases of public consultation, the recommendations of the Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Working Party, and research.

Feedback from public consultation on the 2013 reform model was used to refine the reform model and develop a proposed new system and the Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018.

Key principles of the 2013 reform model were:

  • respect for Aboriginal culture – to recognise Aboriginal people’s responsibility and authority over their own cultural heritage and their right to expect protection for significant cultural values
  • legislative balance – to recognise the needs and interests of different groups within the community and to deliver social, economic and environmental outcomes in the best interests of all people in New South Wales
  • government efficiency – to reduce red tape, duplication and unnecessary state intervention in local issues
  • best-practice principles – to raise the benchmark of performance and deliver a diverse range of Aboriginal cultural heritage benefits.

Key features of the 2013 reform model included:

  • all provisions for Aboriginal cultural heritage moved into stand-alone legislation
  • new definitions and objectives to better reflect the spectrum of values to be protected
  • local decision-making through local Aboriginal cultural heritage committees, which would comprise Aboriginal people with the cultural authority to make decisions about heritage management
  • support from the Office of Environment and Heritage, Heritage Division and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee
  • an Aboriginal cultural heritage register to improve information management
  • creation of Aboriginal cultural heritage maps and plans of management by local Aboriginal cultural heritage committees, in consultation with others who hold cultural knowledge – the maps and management plans would identify key Aboriginal cultural heritage values and conservation priorities, and inform land-use planning and development assessment and negotiation processes
  • a new process to require development proponents to consult and negotiate with local Aboriginal cultural heritage committees
  • a new, more flexible form of regulatory approval – the project agreement – which would replace Aboriginal heritage impact permits and better accommodate developments of different types and sizes
  • mandatory maximum timeframes for negotiating project agreements, along with dispute resolution and appeal processes
  • clearer unexpected-finds processes
  • compliance and enforcement provisions, including offences, penalties, defences and exemptions.

Public feedback

Public feedback on the 2013 reform model was gathered through workshops, written submissions and questionnaires. This input, including summary reports of feedback, is publicly available.

A summary of feedback from workshops, online questionnaires and written submissions was captured in an overview fact sheet (PDF 200KB).

Over 800 people attended 19 public workshops across the state. People were invited to work in small groups and record critical issues or ideas they wanted the government to consider.

Overall the feedback indicated strong support for:

  • stand-alone legislation
  • the principles of the reform
  • the intent to ensure Aboriginal cultural heritage values are considered earlier in the development assessment process and proactively for conservation.

Comments also focused on improving the wording of the new objectives and definitions, and options for identifying the right people to speak for Country.

Other feedback called for the approach to ‘significance’ to be revisited, for greater decision-making by Aboriginal people, for mandatory timeframes to be realistic and variable according to the scale of development, and further consideration to be given to the types of development to which the new Aboriginal cultural heritage framework should apply.

Feedback received through the workshops is captured in a summary report.

The unedited notes taken at each workshop are also available (note that the views recorded were not necessarily supported by all workshop participants):

Sixty-seven submissions were received for an online questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 28 questions to prompt consideration of the key features of the proposed model.

Responses to the questionnaire are set out in a summary report.

The unedited written comments from the online questionnaire (PDF 465KB) are also available.

One hundred and forty-seven written submissions were received, ranging in length from a single sentence to 50 pages. Comments in submissions included support for proposals, suggested improvements, and opposition to proposals.

Written submissions came from a broad range of individuals and stakeholder groups with an interest in Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales. The views expressed in these submissions were collated in a summary report.

Submissions are also available (except where respondents asked their submission not be made public), and have been grouped according to interests or discipline: