Protection of Aboriginal Places, objects and sites

We work with the community to preserve, manage and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage values.

Flowerdale Lagoon, Wagga Wagga, a declared Aboriginal PlaceAboriginal cultural heritage is protected under the following legislation:

  • the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act)
  • the Heritage Act 1977 (Heritage Act).

Under the NPW Act, an Aboriginal Place may be declared over any area of land in New South Wales if the Minister declares that area is of special significance to Aboriginal culture. This declaration provides legal mechanisms to safeguard declared Aboriginal Places from harm or desecration unless the appropriate permit has been issued. The declaration of an Aboriginal Place does not change the status of or affect ownership rights; but a person must not modify, harm or desecrate a declared Aboriginal Place without an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit issued under the NPW Act.

Under the NPW Act it is an offence to harm or desecrate a declared Aboriginal Place, which includes removing an object from its location. There are penalties for anyone who knowingly or deliberately collects and removes Aboriginal objects. It is also an offence to unknowingly harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object or declared Aboriginal Place (e.g. disturb an unrecorded human burial). This second offence is a ‘strict liability offence’.

The Aboriginal cultural heritage offences and the penalty for each offence are summarised below.

Offence

Maximum penalty individual:

Maximum penalty corporation

A person must not harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object that the person knows is an Aboriginal object.

2,500 penalty units ($275,000) or imprisonment for 1 year

5,000 penalty units ($550,000) or imprisonment for 2 years or both (in circumstances of aggravation)

10,000 penalty units ($1,100,000)

A person must not harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object (strict liability offence)

500 penalty units ($55,000)

1,000 penalty units ($110,000)

(in circumstances of aggravation)

2,000 penalty units

($220,000)

A person must not harm or desecrate an Aboriginal place (strict liability offence)

5,000 penalty units ($550,000) or imprisonment for 2 years or both

10,000 penalty units
($1,100,000)

Failure to notify DPC of the location of an Aboriginal object (existing offence and penalty

100 penalty units ($11,000). For continuing offences, a further maximum penalty of 10 penalty units ($1,100) applies for each day the offence continues.

200 penalty units ($22,000). For continuing offences, a further maximum penalty of 20 penalty units ($2,200) applies for each day the offence continues

Contravention of any condition of an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit

1,000 penalty units ($110,000) or imprisonment for 6 months, or both, and in the case of a continuing offence a further penalty of 100 penalty units ($11,000) for each day the offence continues

2,000 penalty units ($220,000) and in the case of a continuing offence a further penalty of 200 penalty units ($22,000) for each day the offence

Under the Heritage Act, the Heritage Council of NSW identifies and recommends items of state significance to the Minister for Heritage to be registered on the NSW State Heritage Register, including items of Aboriginal cultural significance.

Search for Aboriginal Places, objects and sites

You can search for declared Aboriginal Places, objects and sites on AHIMS. Some items are gazetted as Aboriginal Places, some are listed on the State Heritage Register, and some are recognised and protected as both.

You can search the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System (AHIMS) to find out if an Aboriginal Place, Aboriginal object, or an Aboriginal site, has been recorded in a particular area.

Register or login to AHIMS

Aboriginal Places are areas of land recognised as significant to Aboriginal people and protected under the NPW Act.

A place can have spiritual, natural resource use, historical, social, educational or other value to Aboriginal people.

You can find information about declared Aboriginal Places on AHIMS and on our website under the NSW Heritage Search. This includes maps, photos, location information, gazettal notices, and an explanation of the significance for each declared Aboriginal Place.

search

Nominating an Aboriginal Place

Anyone can nominate an area to be declared an Aboriginal Place under the NPW Act. First, you need to read Declared Aboriginal Places: Guidelines for developing management plans and then complete and submit the Aboriginal Place Proposal Form (PDF 157KB).

The Heritage Division of Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) works with the community to identify items to be nominated for listing on the State Heritage Register (SHR).

Nominating Aboriginal objects for listing on the State Heritage Register

A place or item that is distinctive and culturally significant can be nominated for listing on the State Heritage Register (SHR), with the support of the Aboriginal community. Before it can be listed, the place or item must be considered of high significance to the cultural heritage values of the community or to Aboriginal communities of NSW.

When considering an item for listing, the Heritage Council carefully assesses its heritage significance and consults with land owners/managers, the Aboriginal community and the broader community. An item is listed on the register after the Minister agrees to the Heritage Council's recommendation that it is of State heritage significance.

Here's what to do if you are considering nominating a place or object:

Email: heritagemailbox@environment.nsw.gov.au or ring the Heritage Division on (02) 9873 8500 about the potential listing.

Information on how to nominate to the State Heritage Register.

Comment on proposed Aboriginal listings for the State Heritage Register

Everyone can comment on whether a place or object should be listed on the State Heritage Register. When an item is proposed for listing, the Heritage Council publishes notices in local media and invites the owners, occupiers, local council and any interested members of the public to write a submission.

Comment on an item that has been proposed for listing.

Report Aboriginal objects

If you find or believe you have found an Aboriginal object, leave it where it is and report the object and its location to DPC. Even if you believe the object is in danger of being damaged or harmed, it is very important to leave it alone and report it immediately. You may be committing an offence if you handle or move the object. The NPW Act calls for the location of Aboriginal objects to be reported regardless of whether they are on public or private land.

Information or relevant details about what should be included are listed in the site cards that are used for reporting Aboriginal objects. Site cards can be accessed online or by calling an office.

If you mistakenly take an Aboriginal object, or find yourself in possession of one, please return it to your local office or phone Environment Line: 131 555 for further information about how to return the object to its rightful owners as soon as possible.

DPC works with Aboriginal communities and is guided by them to make sure Aboriginal cultural material is returned promptly and in a culturally appropriate way.

Develop a management plan for a declared Aboriginal Place

When an Aboriginal Place is declared, a formal management plan should be prepared. The landowner/manager/occupier must work in consultation with the Aboriginal community to develop the plan.

If you are developing a management plan there are several important elements for you to consider during the assessment process and in the development of the management plan. These include:

  • a statement of cultural values of the Aboriginal Place, which may include:
    • details of existing, known or recorded Aboriginal sites
    • details of whether there are any men’s or women’s business sites associated with the area being nominated
    • any areas where further investigations are needed
  • information about potential threats to the place, a risk assessment against those threats and applicable mitigation strategies to manage or treat the threats
  • details about other uses of the area, such as recreation or economic activities
  • appropriate fire regimes
  • details of specific short- and long-term activities or management actions that may require an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit before they can lawfully be undertaken within the nominated area
  • maps or diagrams to illustrate where activities or actions that may require an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit would be likely to occur
  • details about the treatment of any applicable culturally sensitive information or content
  • details about ongoing and long-term management action proposals, including:
    • resources required
    • a list of responsible parties
    • information about associated consultation and/or approval requirements
  • documented plans for the periodic monitoring and recording of the nominated Aboriginal Place site conditions and management actions
  • details about funding and resources.

We have prepared Declared Aboriginal Places: Guidelines for developing management plans, a document that is intended to help applicants/nominees prepare a management plan.