Managing cultural heritage
We work with landholders and the Aboriginal communities to protect Aboriginal cultural values in the landscape.
Many farmers are protecting Aboriginal cultural values on their land and there is support available to help you in this role. This page will:
- help you understand what cultural values there are in the landscape
- explain your legislative requirements
- give examples of farmers protecting Aboriginal cultural values
- explain what support is available.
Identifying Aboriginal cultural values in the landscape
Our landscape is rich in Aboriginal culture and history. People have lived on and cared for this country for thousands of years. Evidence of Aboriginal occupation can be found across the landscape.
Aboriginal heritage sites may include visible items like scar trees, tools, grinding grooves and flints. Other highly significance but less visible sites can include hearths (historic firepits), ochre quarries and unique landscape forms.
There are a number of myths and misconceptions around Aboriginal cultural values on farms. Below are a few of the common ones.
Myth: "My farm will be claimed"
There is no legislation in NSW or Australia that allows Aboriginal people to make any claim over private freehold land.
Even if your property contains Aboriginal sites and cultural values or has high significance to the local Aboriginal community, your land cannot be 'claimed'.
Having culturally significant sites on your property will not affect ownership and in the majority of cases will no prevent existing land use practicesfrom continuing.
Myth: "Anyone can have access to Aboriginal sites"
Aboriginal communities are interested in protecting Aboriginal sites of significance in the best possible way.
Having cultural values on your land does not give people automatic access to sites without permission. Communities are interested in sharing cultural knowledge with landowners and protecting cultural sites together.
If you have cultural sites of significance on your land, there is information and people around to help you protect it:
- Office of Environment and Heritage
- Local Land Services Aboriginal Communities Officers (refer to your region's website)
- Local Aboriginal Lands Councils.
Farmers and Aboriginal community working together – the stories
There are many examples of farmers who are actively working with Aboriginal communities on their land.
Two examples are 'Strathmore' and 'Memsie' in central west NSW.
Dubbo farmer, Mark Carter, is working with the Aboriginal community and Central West Local Land Services to improve his property's biodiversity and river areas.
Twenty five kilometres south of Dubbo, the project has seen the Macquarie River fenced off to prevent erosion and replanting native vegetation.
As part of the Work for the Dole Program, the Indigenous Concepts and Networking (ICaN) Group, has planted long-stemmed tube stock along 3.5kms of riparian land on 'Strathmore'.
A chance encounter by farmer Michael Zell has seen a historic Aboriginal grave site protected on his Gulargambone property.
While inspecting a fox den, Mr Zell discovered the culturally significant burial site.
This led to a chain of events which saw the site fenced and protected with support from members of the Aboriginal community, the Office of Environment and Heritage and Central West Local Land Services.
This project also helped Mr Zell better understand the Aboriginal cultural values on his land.
Local Land Services works with landholders on a range of production and environmental issues, including protecting Aboriginal cultural values.
The National Parks and Wildlife Act
In NSW, the protection and preservation of Aboriginal objects and places falls within the National Parks and Wildlife Act (NPW) 1974.
This protects Aboriginal objects and Aboriginal places in NSW. Under the NPW Act, it is an offence to do any of the following things without an exemption or defence provided for under the NPW Act (penalties apply):
You must not knowingly harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object.
You must not harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place (strict liability). Harm includes destroy, deface or damage of Aboriginal object or Aboriginal Place, and in relation to an object, move the object from the land on which it has been situated.
Exercising due diligence
Anyone who exercises due diligence in determining that their actions will not harm Aboriginal objects has a defence against prosecution for the strict liability offence if they later harm an object.
If you are interested in finding out more about Aboriginal cultural heritage on your land, contact your Local Land Services office. Local Land Services Aboriginal communities officers can offer advice and connect you with appropriate organisations.
Grants for protecting sites
Through support from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, we regularly offer support to landholders who want to protect sites on their land.