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15 Sep 17
New legal framework for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage reforms released

WHO SHOULD READ THIS

  • Property developers and resources companies operating in New South Wales.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • The New South Wales Government hopes to fulfil its commitment to Aboriginal cultural heritage conservation through a system that will offer “a transformative, contemporary and respectful vision for the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW”.

The NSW Government has released a proposed new legal framework to enhance protection of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (ACH) when planning decisions are made. The framework will be supported by new stand alone legislation that together will aim to improve the protection and conservation of ACH in NSW for current and future generations through legal recognition of Aboriginal custodianship.

In response to public feedback on a draft reform model proposed in 2013, the NSW Government seeks to regulate planning activities that impact ACH through a more transparent system. Together with the legal acknowledgment of Aboriginal ownership, the new system will provide statutory objects to guide interpretation of the draft legislation and a new definition of ACH.

The framework will also establish Local ACH consultation panels that will report to the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Authority (Authority), a state-wide statutory body that will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the reforms. The ACH Authority will also develop additional guidelines, regulations and policies in consultation with Aboriginal people, government, industry bodies and various stakeholders.

Proponents seeking to develop land where ACH may be affected can refer to the Authority for guidance. This new governance structure will ensure that Aboriginal people have decision making authority over the management of ACH and that planning activities may be undertaken with greater certainty. Better information management is also a key priority of the new system, which will introduce ACH mapping products and processes, strategic plans and monitoring and reporting. This will reduce the risk of unexpected discoveries that cause project delays and costs for industry proponents. Fundamentally, conservation tools, repatriation and funding for conservation will ensure future preservation of ACH.

State significant development and State significant infrastructure projects will be exempt from the proposed ACH assessment pathway, but will continue to be subject to the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements which will be updated to reflect the key provisions of the revised ACH assessment pathway.

Certain low impact activities will also be exempt from the proposed ACH assessment pathway.

The proposed legal framework is on public exhibition until 18 December 2017. The draft legislation is set to be released in October for consultation.  Information sessions on the new reforms will be run by the Office of Environment and Heritage throughout NSW, with a second round of workshops to follow once the draft legislation is released. This will give individuals the opportunity to discuss concerns raised by the reforms and provide feedback.


Focus covers legal and technical issues in a general way.  It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases.  Focus is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.  Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.

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