Since June 2019 the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon. Don Harwin MLC, has had carriage of the Aboriginal cultural heritage (ACH)
reforms. The reforms are being prepared by Aboriginal Affairs NSW within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Aboriginal people in NSW have been calling for reform for many years. At present, most Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW is protected and
managed under the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Those provisions:
- Do not give Aboriginal people enough say over the management of their heritage
- Are outdated and often criticised by both the Aboriginal community, industry and development proponents
- Are inflexible and inefficient to administer
- Do not produce the best heritage outcomes
Further, NSW is the only state in Australia without stand-alone Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation.
Public feedback from a reform model released by the NSW Government in 2013 revealed general support for the principles of that model, but
there were wide ranging and often contrasting views about detailed design elements. After several years of consultation and carefully
considering this feedback, we have developed a proposed new system for managing and conserving Aboriginal cultural heritage which is
reflected in the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018.
The proposed new system aims to fulfil the NSW Government’s commitment to deliver stand-alone legislation that respects and conserves
Aboriginal cultural heritage for current and future generations. It also aims to recognise Aboriginal custodianship and ensure Aboriginal
people have the authority to makes decisions about Aboriginal cultural heritage, while providing clear and consistent processes for economic
and social development in New South Wales.
The objectives of the reforms are to deliver:
- Broader recognition of Aboriginal cultural heritage values
- Decision-making by Aboriginal people
- Better information management
- Improved protection, management and conservation of ACH
- Greater confidence in the regulatory system