Aboriginal Significant Sites
What are Aboriginal Places?
Put simply, Aboriginal Places are a way of recognising and legally protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage. Under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act, any land may be declared an Aboriginal place if the area “is or was of special significance to Aboriginal culture”.
Why nominate an area for Aboriginal Place declaration?
Aboriginal Places protect a range of cultural values, including former Aboriginal reserves and missions; land containing Aboriginal burials; important meeting places and ceremonial sites; important post-contact historical events, such as massacres and birthplaces of notable Aboriginal people; places with dreaming stories and other spiritual significance; and places with Aboriginal artefacts requiring special recognition and protection. Declaring an area an Aboriginal Place is a way of formally recognising the cultural attachment Aboriginal people have to land, to Country. Throughout NSW many landholders acknowledge and respect Aboriginal peoples’ attachment to particular areas. Aboriginal people and landholders have worked collaboratively to protect many areas that are also important for their educational value for future generations of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal Places provide protection – once declared as an Aboriginal Place, the land receives the same protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Act as an Aboriginal object. That means that any activities that will damage, destroy or deface the Aboriginal Place cannot be carried out unless specific consent is granted by the Director-General of the Department, which can only be granted after consultation with local Aboriginal groups. The status, use or ownership of an area does not change as a result of a declaration but culture and heritage is recognised and protected.
Declaration of an area as an Aboriginal Place gives landholders and the whole community benefits by providing:
- a way of helping to conserve the unique cultural heritage of NSW for future generations;
- an opportunity to contribute to the process of reconciliation;
- the chance to share knowledge of, and learn more about, their land;
- protection in perpetuity of the Aboriginal Place under Section 90 of the NP&W Act;
- access to specialist advice from the Office of Environment and Heritage on the mangement of the Aboriginal Place;
- access to external funding grants for conservation and protection works;
- potential interpretation signage to help inform the public of the values of the site;
- social, economic and environmental benefits including employment, tourism and recreation for the whole community.
Declared Aboriginal Places of Significance
- Ensuring Aboriginal Cultural values are recognised in regulatory and planning processes;
- Clarifying management roles and better allocation of resources, leading to more effective management and conservation outcomes;
- More effective risk management by considering hazards in advance;
- Management plans can be used in some cases to bid for funding for projects or tasks from private and government sources; and
- Provides opportunities for the community to engage in conservation, site protection and management, including through the intergenerational transfer of culture and economic opportunities where appropriate.