The Aboriginal cultural heritage reform process

Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation in NSW has been under review since 2010 and has involved 4 phases of public consultation to date.

Reforming any legislation is complex and requires a multi-staged approach. Key aims throughout the New South Wales Aboriginal cultural heritage (ACH) reforms have been to ensure that new legislation:

  • respects and conserves ACH in New South Wales for current and future generations
  • provides clear and consistent processes for economic and social development.

Public consultation has involved collecting information and consulting with people across New South Wales to establish what the reforms need to consider and to develop and refine new legislation.

2017–18 public consultation

From September 2017 to April 2018 the government consulted publicly on a proposed new system for managing and conserving ACH in New South Wales, supported by the Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018. The proposed new system was informed by recommendations of the Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Reform Working Party and public feedback received on the 2013 reform model.

Feedback from the public consultation showed there is much support for the reforms. However some submissions, including from Aboriginal communities, raised issues that needed further consideration. This led to additional targeted stakeholder consultations during January and February 2019 this year, and some further work to refine the proposals in the draft Bill.


This timeline sets out the public consultation phases and other steps in the ACH reform process to date.

In January/February 2019, OEH and Aboriginal Affairs carried out additional targeted consultations to refine the proposals in draft Bill.

September 2017–April 2018

Phase 4 public consultation – legal framework including new draft legislation released for public feedback. This involved:

  • 19 public information sessions
  • 20 public workshops
  • 2 webinars.

Nearly 700 people attended the workshops and over 100 written submissions were made, as well as verbal submissions and responses through the NSW Government’s Have Your Say online portal.

April–December 2018

Feedback received from the Phase 4 public consultation was analysed and considered in the further development of the draft Bill.

OEH published written submissions where author’s permission had been received. The 2017–18 public consultation page includes the submissions and a summary of submissions report.

The NSW Government considered the wide-ranging feedback received and best practice in other jurisdictions to revise the 2013 model and prepare draft legislation for further consultation.


Public submissions for phase 3 public consultation released on the Office of Environment and Heritage website.

September 2013–March 2014

Phase 3 public consultation – Aboriginal Cultural and Heritage Working Party recommendations and the NSW Government’s proposed model for new legislation were released for public feedback.

This involved:

  • 19 public workshops held across New South Wales at Albury, Ballina, Bega, Bourke, Broken Hill (2), Cessnock, Charlestown, Dubbo, Griffith, Gunnedah, Moree, Nowra, Orchard Hills, Parkes, Port Macquarie, Queanbeyan, Sydney and Tamworth
  • 1 peak body meeting on the model for reforming the legislation
  • 67 questionnaires completed
  • 147 written submissions.

OEH published written submissions, where author's permission had been received, and developed a report on workshops.

More information about feedback on the phase 3 consultation is available.


Independent Aboriginal Cultural and Heritage Reform Working Party established.


Phase 2 public consultation – phase 1 consultation results and inter-jurisdictional analysis presented for feedback.

At workshops for the phase 1 consultation, requests were made for more background information on the Aboriginal heritage legislation in New South Wales and other Australian states and territories. Two information papers were developed and circulated before the phase 2 workshops were held:

Eleven workshops for all stakeholders were held across New South Wales at: Rooty Hill, Garden Suburb, Nowra, Queanbeyan, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Walgett, Griffith, Bourke and Broken Hill.


Independent Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Reform Working Party delivered recommendations for reform to the NSW Government.

Government announced broader legislative review.

November 2011

Phase 1 public consultation – a discussion paper Aboriginal Heritage Legislation in NSW: Public consultation on issues for reform was released for public feedback. This included:

  • 25 community workshops held across New South Wales at: Albury, Balranald, Bathurst, Bourke, Broken Hill, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Grafton, Griffith, Ivanhoe, Kempsey, Merimbula, Moree, Mount Druitt, Narooma, Newcastle, Nowra, Queanbeyan, Redfern, Singleton, Tamworth, Tweed Heads, Wagga Wagga, Walgett and Wollongong.
  • 5 workshops for mixed interest groups held across New South Wales at: Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Newcastle, Nowra and Sydney.

April 2012

Independent Aboriginal Cultural and Heritage Reform Working Party established.

June–July 2012

Summary of submissions report and written submissions, where author’s permission had been received, were published:


Parliament amended the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) to improve provisions for Aboriginal cultural heritage offences, penalties, due diligence, Aboriginal heritage impact permits and consultation.

Bipartisan support for amendments on proviso that broader reforms would be undertaken.


Amendments to the NPW Act commenced.