Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972

Applicable to: All Health Service's contemplating any site works on land with possible Aboriginal importance or significance.

Description: The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (the Act) makes provision for the preservation of places and objects customarily used by, or traditional to, the original inhabitants of Australia or their descendants. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is responsible for the administration of the Act and is assisted in that respect by the Aboriginal Affairs Department (AAD) and the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC) which is a specialist advisory body established by the Act.

Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (the Act) makes provision for the preservation of places and objects customarily used by, or traditional to, the original inhabitants of Australia or their descendants.  The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is responsible for the administration of the Act and is assisted in that respect by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) and the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC) which is a specialist advisory body established by the Act.

Of particular relevance to Health Services is the application of the Act to places which includes both registered and unregistered sites of Aboriginal importance and significance.  Maintenance site works undertaken at one WA hospital has highlighted the need for a clarification of the process to be used to ensure WA Government Health System compliance with the Act.

It is important that any Health Service contemplating any site works on land which is either known by it to be, or reasonably suspected by it to be, of possible Aboriginal importance and significance in terms of the Act, obtain the consent of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs prior to the works commencing.  This will help to ensure that no breach of the Act is committed.  In this respect, Health Services should note that the Act applies equally to government and its instrumentalities as it does to private individuals.

Section 18 of the Act allows a land owner to give notice in writing to the ACMC of any proposed use of land which would be likely to result in a breach of the Act in respect of any Aboriginal site that might be on that land.  The ACMC will consider the application and provide recommendations to the Minister, who will then consent to the proposed use, with or without imposing conditions, or decline to consent to the proposed use.  Any site works for which such Ministerial consent has been obtained cannot result in a breach of the Act.

AAD have recommended that where necessary Health Services engage suitably qualified consultants to undertake ethnographic and archaeological surveys to ensure that all Aboriginal interest groups are consulted and that all Aboriginal sites within the works area are avoided and identified.  Such a survey could include archival research, consultations and on the ground inspections and would aid prompt ACMC consideration of the application.

Health Services should contact their local DAA office for more detail of the consent process including contact details for professional organisations whose members have the expertise to undertake heritage assessment surveys.


Dr David Russell-Weisz
DIRECTOR GENERAL
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH WA

Date of effect: 31 December 2015 to 31 December 2020

Policy Framework

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