Guidelines released for new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws

The McGowan Government today released key guidelines to support the State's new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws.
  • New Aboriginal cultural heritage law guidelines released
  • New laws are the result of an extensive co-design consultation process
  • New laws align with Native Title and prioritise engagement with Aboriginal people
  • Guidelines provide balanced approach to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage and enable economic activity
  • Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 on track to commence from 1 July 2023

The McGowan Government today released key guidelines to support the State's new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Dr Tony Buti said the guidelines included details about consultation requirements, fee structures and categories of land use activities. He said the new laws and guidelines were designed to provide a balanced approach to protect and manage Aboriginal cultural heritage and enable the continuation of economic activity, such as farming and mining.

Since the new laws were passed by Parliament in December 2021, there has been an extensive three phase co-design process to develop the guidelines to implement the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021.

Input from more than 1,100 people who attended 94 workshops held across metropolitan, regional and remote areas has been taken into account in developing the guidelines. In addition, the guidelines also took into account 223 submissions and a broad range of direct feedback received from engagement with Traditional Owners, Aboriginal people, landowners and industry representatives.

The guidelines and related documents are designed to guide proponents and support Aboriginal people in navigating Western Australia's new framework. Land use activities will fall into four categories. These will determine if the activity is exempt, doesn't need a formal approval or may require a permit or a more comprehensive cultural heritage management plan. The relevant Aboriginal people will need to be notified of any permit application and a management plan will need to be developed in consultation with the appropriate Aboriginal people for that Country.

Aboriginal organisations can choose to be designated as a Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Service which will give them a greater say in these processes as well as provide a one stop shop for proponents and help facilitate those processes.

The new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 is designed to prioritise consultation with Aboriginal people about any land use activities that may impact their cultural heritage.

The new Act will take effect from 1 July 2023 replacing the outdated 1972 Act and the controversial section 18 process to manage impacts to cultural heritage.

To view the documents and for more information about the new laws, visit

Comments attributed to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti:

"Hundreds of people and organisations have provided valuable input into the co-design process over the past 12 months to help develop these documents which are critical to implementing the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021.

"These are complex matters, considering the vast richness of Aboriginal cultural heritage across our State and the many and varied land uses that support our economy, accommodate for growth and provide new economic and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.

"For the first time in our State's history, these laws will empower Aboriginal people to be truly involved in making decisions about activities that impact their cultural heritage.

"These new laws and guidelines provide a balanced approach to the protection and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage, whilst enabling economic activity, such as farming and mining, to continue.

"There will also be a change to the type of approval required to impact Aboriginal cultural heritage and the process for obtaining that approval. What is not changing is the need to obtain approval as that already exists.

"Work will continue over the coming months to bring in a new IT system for the lodgement of applications, conduct a series of education and awareness sessions for landowners and stakeholders, and ensure the right governance is in place to support and empower Aboriginal people to realise the significant benefits of this new legislative framework."

Minister's office - 6552 6400