Box 9.5 Victorian Indigenous heritage—listing and management of Aboriginal places
In Victoria, objects and places with Indigenous heritage value are protected through the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, which began in May 2007 and is administered by Aboriginal Affairs, Victoria. (Some post-contact places with Indigenous values may also be protected and managed under the Heritage Act 1995.)
The Aboriginal Heritage Act established the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register, which includes records of all known Aboriginal places in Victoria, as well as known private collections of Aboriginal objects. The register was established in the 1970s under the Archaeological and Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1972. As at June 2011, there were 32 599 registrations, with approximately 1000 new registrations being added each year. It is estimated that the existing records represent a survey of approximately 3% of the state's land area.
The Aboriginal Heritage Act includes a range of protective mechanisms. A key aspect of these provisions is the positive value placed on the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage. Activities that may harm Aboriginal heritage can only be carried out in accordance with an approved cultural heritage management plan or a cultural heritage permit. A cultural heritage management plan is a written report containing the results of an assessment and recommendations for measures to be taken before, during and after an activity, to manage and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage. Cultural heritage management plans are prepared for projects subject to an 'environmental effects statement' process, if required by the minister responsible for the Act or under regulations that make them mandatory for listed high-impact activities.
A cultural heritage permit cannot be used if a cultural heritage management plan is mandated, so there has been a move away from permits since 2007. In this period, permits have been issued for excavating land (19 permits); carrying out an activity that will, or is likely to, harm Aboriginal cultural heritage (139); buying or selling an Aboriginal object (40); undertaking scientific research (7); and removing an Aboriginal object from Victoria (2). There has been one successful prosecution (for selling an Aboriginal object without a permit), and four stop orders were issued.
Between May 2007 and June 2011, approximately 4000 Aboriginal places were registered in Victoria, 1190 cultural heritage management plans were approved and 207 permits were issued.
Other initiatives taken to assist with conservation of the state's Indigenous heritage include establishment of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Registry Information System, which provides real-time online access to the register for approved users, and a nationally accredited Certificate IV in Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management course offered by La Trobe University.
Source: Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, 30 June 2011