Aboriginal heritage is the physical and cultural evidence of the use of land by Aboriginal people. Such physical evidence may include objects such as scarred trees, material deposited on land, such as a midden, rock engravings or ancestral remains of Aboriginal people, knowledge songs, art and pathways. Aboriginal heritage also includes those elements of the landscape with which Aboriginal people have a cultural association.
Aboriginal objects and places have legal protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. It is an offence to desecrate or harm Aboriginal objects and places without the consent of the Office of Environment and Heritage. Aboriginal objects and places must be taken into consideration when any development is proposed.
Where are areas of Aboriginal sensitivity in the Shire?
The Archaeological Sensitivity Maps provide the information necessary for identifying the Aboriginal archaeological sensitivity of a property (N.B. Once on the Shire Maps page, you will need to change the map layer to 'Archaeological Sensitivity').
- High archaeological sensitivity areas are generally along the foreshore and rivers/creeks. These are the areas where there is the greatest probability of an Aboriginal object being identified.
- Medium archaeological sensitivity areas are where there is some probability of an Aboriginal object being identified.
- Low archaeological sensitivity areas are areas where this is a low probability of an Aboriginal object being identified.
- Disturbed land is generally urbanised, industrialised areas which have been highly disturbed and there is no original land surface or subsurface.
Is my property archaelogically sensitive?
View Archaelogical Sensitivity Maps (N.B. Once on the Shire Maps page, you will need to change the map layer to 'Archaeological Sensitivity')
Part of the development application process
Any development application must include information about the existence of Aboriginal objects and places. The purpose of this information is to enable council staff to determine whether a more detailed assessment is required to protect Aboriginal objects and places.
The information required by council is:
- Whether the proposed development will affect land which has not been previously used or is undisturbed. Generally, areas of bushland or areas that have not been affected by development would constitute undisturbed land.
- Whether the proposed development encroaches on any sandstone formations.
- Whether there are any known Aboriginal objects and places on the land. It is important to provide photographic evidence of the site to demonstrate whether land is disturbed and/or whether any significant natural features are present on the site.
This information should form part of the Statement of Environmental Effects.
If an Aboriginal heritage assessment has previously been conducted for the property, it is advisable to submit this study together with the preliminary Aboriginal assessment. If Aboriginal objects and places are known on the land, it is advisable to undertake an Aboriginal heritage assessment prior to lodging your development application and submit this study as part of the application.
Exceptions to a preliminary assessment
There may be some circumstances where a preliminary assessment of the existence of Aboriginal objects and places is not required. This is largely dependent on the scale of development and the extent of the site it intends to disturb. For example, minor development such as an awning is unlikely to require this assessment. Council development assessment staff will advise if a preliminary assessment is not needed.
Assessment of your development application
Once your development application is submitted, Council will commence assessment. If an Aboriginal object or place is known to exist on the land when the development application is lodged, and the proposed development will unavoidably desecrate or harm the object or place, the application will be referred to the Office of Environment and Heritage.
Council staff will conduct a site visit to assess the preliminary information submitted with your application. Should any natural features which suggest the existence of a previously unknown Aboriginal object or place be identified during the site visit, you will be notified in writing that an Aboriginal Heritage Assessment is required.
Aboriginal Heritage Assessment
An Aboriginal heritage assessment outlines the cultural significance of a site, examines importance of the object or place and provides a management strategy for the item in the context of the proposed development.
The assessment must be carried out by a qualified archaeologist and involve local Aboriginal people with knowledge of the cultural significance of the area. The Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists maintains a register of consultants.
The assessment should include:
- Ground survey or surface inspection of the property and identification of the appropriate areas on the site for development which may require a permit under section 90 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act to disturb or excavate land for the purpose of discovering Aboriginal objects.
- Identification of any Aboriginal objects or places and any areas which may have potentially buried sites that are not visible on the surface.
- An assessment of the importance or significance of the Aboriginal object or place.
- The view of relevant Aboriginal groups and individuals and the Office of Environment and Heritage about the significance of the object or place and acceptable levels of impact.
- An assessment of the impact of development on any Aboriginal object or place located during the survey or ground inspection.
- Preparation of a cultural heritage management strategy. This could include site conservation, site investigation, and consideration of alternative design solutions or as a last resort site destruction with appropriate permits. The strategy should be prepared in consultation with the Aboriginal groups and individuals and the Office of Environment and Heritage.
Consultant archaeologists will be familiar with the type of Aboriginal heritage assessment required for a development application. The information specified should be provided in a formal report as part of your application.
The report submitted must include:
- Details of objects and places identified (including photographs) and the impacts of development on these objects and places.
- Details of the consultation undertaken and how comments received were considered.
- A copy of the OEH’s Aboriginal heritage information system standard site recording form, if relevant.
- Management and mitigation recommendations based on the cultural and archaeological assessment and the outcomes of consultation with interested groups and individuals. There may be scope, depending on the recommendations to make application for consent under the National Parks and Wildlife Act to the Office of Environment and Heritage to destroy or remove the Aboriginal object or place.