Reform of Indigenous heritage protection laws

Improving protection for Indigenous traditional areas and objects

The Australian Government has proposed reforms to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 to improve Indigenous heritage protection laws nationally. The Act could be substantially amended or replaced. In August 2009 the government released a discussion paper that contained the proposed reforms and called for submissions on the proposals. Submissions received will help the government make its decisions on the timing of possible new legislation.

Response to EPBC Act Review (August 2011)

The government has agreed to consider incorporating the requirements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). Further details are available in the response to recommendation 64 of the independent review of the EPBC Act.

Discussions to clarify issues (June 2010)

Additional meetings were held following the receipt of submissions to clarify some matters raised in submissions. The department also took part in a public discussion on the reforms at the 2010 National Native Title Conference.

Independent recommendation for new Act (December 2009)

The government's discussion paper flagged the possibility of including the reforms in a revised form of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). An independent review has recommended that the EPBC Act be amended to incorporate, among other things, the requirements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act (recommendation 64).

Submissions received (November 2009)

The period for written submissions ran from 3 August to 6 November 2009. A total of 76 submissions were received from a wide range of individuals and organisations including Aboriginal land councils, industry sectors that may be affected by the reforms, Indigenous leaders and academics, the author of a 1996 review of the Act, and state governments.

Information sessions (2009)

During August and September 2009 the department sent officers to each city and town where there is an Indigenous Coordination Centre (see list of dates and venues) to meet representative bodies and to host information sessions for members of the public. People were not asked to state their views about the government's proposals. The aim was to encourage anyone who is interested in the reforms to make a written submission or, where appropriate, to ask a representative body to make a submission on their behalf. The information sessions were advertised through this website, local media, letters, and departmental networks. A total of 139 people attended. People who were unable to attend can view the information presented.

Call for written submissions (August 2009)

On 3 August 2009 the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts invited written submissions on proposed reforms to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984. The department wrote to some 500 organisations and individuals to encourage them to make submissions. The following information was sent out: