Land use under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972

Information about Aboriginal lands use under the Act, including permissions and offenses under sections 10, 16, 17 and 18.

Aboriginal Heritage Due Diligence Guidelines

The Government's Due Diligence Guidelines assist land users to understand their obligations under the Act and inform their risk-management decisions. You can contact the department to discuss your circumstances.

Section 16 Authorisation

Permission granted by the Registrar of Aboriginal Sites, on the advice of the ACMC, to enter an Aboriginal site and excavate, examine or remove anything on or under the site in a manner and subject to conditions as the Committee may advise.

Section 16 Authority Application 

To determine if a place is or could be a site under the Act, visit Aboriginal heritage search. Complete a search of both Registered Sites and Other Heritage Information. 

Site status

If a site status is listed as:

Status Action
Registered Site: it has previously been assessed to be a site Submit the Section 16 Authority Application Form and attach a detailed project plan
Stored Data: it has been previously assessed to not be a site You do not need to submit a Section16 Authority Application Form
Insufficient information or Lodged (or is not listed at all): it may or may not be a site You should submit a Section 16 Authority Application Form and attach a detailed project plan and a Heritage Information Submission Form for any information that you currently have about the place. As you complete your work, submit an additional Heritage Information Submission Form as new and significant information comes to hand.

You can contact the department if you would like assistance with this. 

What happens when I submit an application?

The Registrar of Aboriginal Sites (Registrar) will consider the application and may grant authorisation on the advice of and subject to conditions imposed by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC). Refer to the ACMC Meeting Dates for the closing dates for receipt of Applications to be considered at a particular ACMC meeting.

Authorisation may be granted for any site that meets the requirements of the AHA, regardless of whether or not it is listed as a registered site on the Register of Places and Objects (Register).

As the AHA does not state the purpose for which authority may be granted, the Registrar will consider each application on its merit. Particular cases where authority may be granted include:

  • where the item is to be removed for examination, or for reasons of security, or to be placed in a museum
  • academic research of the site or its elements that involves ground disturbance
  • further assessment of the importance and significance of the site (e.g. to support a proposal that the site be declared a Protected Area); or
  • collection of samples (e.g. of paint).

How can I make sure I provide the right information?

When submitting the completed form, attach a Project Plan – this is the primary document upon which assessment will be based. The degree of detail provided should be commensurate with the scope and scale of the project and include, as a minimum:

  • the methodology to be employed
  • any object(s) (within the definition of section 6 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972) and other things intended to be removed from the site
  • whether the things to be removed from the site will be replaced in situ
  • if not, the location to which the object(s) are intended to be removed and the reason
  • the proposed remediation of the site
  • precise details of any alteration to the site as a result of the project
  • native title bodies that have been provided a copy of this application, evidence such as copies of correspondence sent and a summary or copy of response received.

Offences under Section 17 of the Act

Section 17 of the Act outlines offences relating to Aboriginal sites.

Destruction damage or alteration (impact) to an Aboriginal site without the prior consent of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Minister) is an offence under section 17 of the Act.

Section 17 of the Act outlines offences relating to Aboriginal sites.

A person who -

(a) excavates, destroys, damages, conceals or in any way alters any Aboriginal site; or
(b) in any way alters, damages, removes, destroys, conceals, or who deals with in a manner not sanctioned by relevant custom, or assumes the possession, custody or control of, any object    on or under an Aboriginal site;

commits an offence unless he is acting with the authorisation of the Registrar under Section 16 or the consent of the Minister under Section 18.

Section 18 Notices

Where land users conclude that impact to a site is unavoidable, the Minister's consent may be sought under Section 18 of the AHA to impact the Aboriginal site by giving notice to the ACMC.

Section 18 Notice Form

The declarant at the end of the form must be the land owner/proponent or a duly authorised representative of the owner (normally a senior officer of the company) or person authorised in writing by the owner to act as their agent.

If this is incorrect you will be requested to resubmit the form with the correct details.

Please note: Section 18 Notices are to be lodged by 5pm. Notices received after this time will automatically proceed to the next close of submission date for the following ACMC meeting.

Notice to the ACMC

The ACMC meets once every month as per the dates specified in the ACMC Meeting Dates. This table also provides details on the closing and advertising dates for Section 18 Notices and Section 16 Application.

The department publishes Section 18 Notices for possible consideration at upcoming ACMC meetings and the final list to be considered two weeks prior to the meeting on its website. This information is also provided to Native Title Representative Bodies.

Key links

Note: When the intended land use is deemed by the Environmental Protection Authority to be a significant proposal, the Minister's consent must be deferred until the Environmental Protection Act 1986 Part IV assessment is complete.

Activities under Regulation 10

If you wish to undertake any of the activities within a Protected Area or Aboriginal site which are prohibited under Regulation 10 of the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 1974, you may apply in writing to the Registrar of Aboriginal Sites (Registrar) requesting that consent be issued.

On any land to which these regulations apply, a person shall not, without the written consent of the Minister or the Registrar or a person authorised in writing by the Minister or the Registrar:

(a) alter, damage, or destroy any notice, boundary, fence, shelter, grille, cutting, drain, protective work or other thing which the Registrar or any officer of the Department has, or has caused to be, erected, constructed, made or placed thereon or therein;

(b) dig any hole or otherwise disturb the surface of the ground, or remove or disturb any stone, soil, sand, rock or gravel, or any other natural object;

(c) cut, pick, pull, break, remove, take, injure, poison, strip or destroy any tree, shrub, herb, grass or other plant or part thereof whether living or dead;

(d) post, stick, stamp, stencil, paint, draw or otherwise affix or make any mark, symbol, lettering, notice, advertisement poster, sign or document of any description;

(e) except in a place approved or provided for the purpose —

(i) drive, tow, operate or park any vehicle;

(ii) camp, erect tents or shelters, light fires or make fireplaces;

(iii) deposit or leave any refuse, rubbish or litter; or

(iv) take, ride or drive, graze or agist any horse, cattle, sheep, goat, camel, donkey or pig, or allow any such animal to remain;

(f) sell any food, beverage or other article;

(g) unlock, unfasten or leave open any gate unless duly authorised to do so; or

(h) except with the prior written approval of the Minister, or the Registrar, and in accordance with such requirements as he may impose, take any photograph or make any recording for the purpose of commercial reproduction or publication.

Programme of work

Advice regarding responsibilities under the Act before lodging an application for a Programme of Work – Exploration activities with DMIRS.

Apply for programme of work 

If you are submitting a Programme of work application to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, you are required to complete a section on Aboriginal heritage management. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have sufficient knowledge of the Aboriginal heritage values within your tenement so that you do not commit an offence under the Act.

To assist you to complete this section of the application, it is recommended that you refer to the Aboriginal heritage due diligence guidelines and conduct a search for Aboriginal sites and other heritage places within the area the application refers to.

Key links

Aboriginal heritage surveys

If you are considering undertaking an Aboriginal heritage survey, it is recommended that you first contact the department to discuss your circumstances.

When to submit an Aboriginal heritage survey

There is no requirement that an Aboriginal heritage survey be included with a:

  • Section 18 Notice submitted under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972
  • Heritage Information Submission Form when submitting information in relation to a potential Aboriginal site under section 5 of the Act.

All information required for decision-making in relation to Aboriginal site assessment or granting Section 18 consent must be included on the aforementioned forms. If a decision is made to submit a survey report as an attachment to one of these forms, at no place on the form should it state 'refer to attached report' or similar.

The department will usually make reports that have been submitted available to other people on request. The benefit of submitting a report is that it may assist others with their research.

Page reviewed 1 June 2022