Aboriginal Sites and the Law

Well today I am going to talk about Aboriginal sites and the law, it is important to be aware of the fact that all Aboriginal sites in NSW are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act of 1974.

It is an offence to damage or destroy them, this includes collecting artefacts without the prior permission of the Director-General of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). The penalties for harming an Aboriginal site which includes graffiti are up to $275,000 and 1 year’s imprisonment for individuals and as much as $1.1 million for corporations.

The most important bit of the legislation is what is known as “due diligence”, if someone is planning an activity that may disturb the ground or old growth trees, they must show that they have taken steps to avoid damaging or harming any Aboriginal site.

Therefore including a review of potential Aboriginal heritage issues will ensure the Aboriginal sites are not accidentally damaged and the people doing the work are not liable for prosecution. Carrying out a proper due diligence process provides a defence against prosecution if an Aboriginal heritage object is harmed during works.

The two pieces of legislation that most effect Aboriginal heritage management in NSW are:

  • National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974

  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979

I feel it is good that we have these acts in place and steps are taken to protect Aboriginal sites, for too long Aboriginal sites were not considered important or worth protecting.

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