Indigenous heritage laws

Generally Australia’s state and territory governments are responsible for the protection of Australia’s Indigenous heritage places. All states and territories have laws that protect various types of Indigenous heritage.

The Commonwealth is responsible for protecting Indigenous heritage places that are nationally or internationally significant, or that are situated on land that is owned or managed by the Commonwealth. This protection operates under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 establishes the National Heritage List, which includes natural, Indigenous and historic places that are of outstanding heritage value to the nation. Under the EPBC Act there are penalties for anyone who takes an action that has or will have a significant impact on the Indigenous heritage values of a place that is recognised in the National Heritage List.

The Act also establishes the Commonwealth Heritage List, which includes places on Commonwealth lands and waters or under Australian Government control that have Indigenous heritage significance.

In addition the Act protects heritage on Commonwealth land and from actions undertaken by the Commonwealth.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (ATSIHP Act) can protect areas and objects that are of particular significance to Aboriginal people. The ATSIHP Act allows the Environment Minister, on the application of an Aboriginal person or group of persons, to make a declaration to protect an area, object or class of objects from a threat of injury or desecration.

Other relevant Commonwealth laws

Other Commonwealth laws regulate aspects of Indigenous Heritage, including the export of Aboriginal objects and the recognition of Aboriginal land rights and native title, including: