The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (the Act) and Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2007 (the Regulations) provide protection and management for Victoria's Aboriginal cultural heritage with streamlined processes linked to the Victorian planning system and land development processes. The Act is administered by Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (AAV).

The legislation provides protection for all Aboriginal places, objects and human remains regardless of their inclusion on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register or if they are located on public or private land.

The Act provides clear guidance to planners and developers about when, and how, Aboriginal cultural heritage needs to be considered, and in some situations work cannot proceed until compliance is met. Large developments and other high impact activities in culturally sensitive landscapes can cause significant harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage. In these situations the Act may require the preparation of a Cultural Heritage Management Plan or the planner or developer may need to obtain a Cultural Heritage Permit.

Registered Aboriginal Parties

At a local level, Registered Aboriginal parties (RAPs) have important roles and functions in managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria. RAPs are determined by the Aboriginal Heritage Council.

One of their most important functions involves the evaluation of Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs). RAPs also provide advice on applications for Cultural Heritage Permits, decisions about Cultural Heritage Agreements and advice or application for interim or ongoing Protection Declarations

There are two approved RAPs within Greater Shepparton's municipal boundaries - the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation. The vast majority of the municipality lies within the jurisdiction of the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

The Role of Local Planning Authorities

Responsible authorities must check whether a CHMP is required prior to the determination of a planning permit application. If a Plan is required, the responsible authority cannot issue a planning permit until it receives a copy of an approved Plan. In addition, a planning permit cannot be granted for an activity that is inconsistent with an approved Plan.  AAV has developed an assessment tool to assist proponents to determine if a CHMP is required. This tool is available from the Victorian Government website.

What is a Cultural Heritage Management Plan?

A Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) is a written report designed to assess whether a project is likely to have an impact on an area of Aboriginal cultural heritage significance or Aboriginal cultural heritage values, and what measures can be taken to avoid the impact, or to recommend management techniques during and after construction to minimise disturbance or damage to this cultural heritage. A CHMP is prepared by a Cultural Heritage Advisor (who may be an archaeologist or other heritage specialist) in conjunction with Aboriginal community representatives.

The Plan must be approved by the relevant RAP, where one exists. Where no Registered Aboriginal Party exists, the Secretary of the DPCD, or in certain circumstances the Aboriginal Heritage Council, may approve the Plan.

Will I need to prepare a CHMP?

A CHMP is required if all or part of the proposed activity is:

  1. Within an area of Cultural Heritage Sensitivity, that has not previously had significant ground disturbance 
  2. All or part of the proposal is a high impact activity

1. Areas of Cultural Heritage Sensitivity

An area of cultural heritage sensitivity is an area in which Aboriginal cultural heritage is, or is likely to be present, which has not already been subject to significant ground disturbance. These areas are:

  • Registered Aboriginal cultural heritage places (and within 50 metres)
  • Named waterways (and within 200m) 
  • Certain prior waterways (and within 200m)
  • Certain ancient lakes (and within 200m) 
  • Declared Ramsar wetlands (and within 200m)
  • Coastal Crown land 
  • Coastal land within 200m of high water mark 
  • Parks (defined by the National Parks Act) 
  • High plains areas 
  • Particular greenstone outcrops;
  • Stony rises of the Mt Eccles, Mt Napier and Mt Rouse lava flows 
  • Volcanic cones of western Victoria 
  • Caves
  • Lunettes (crescent shaped dunes adjacent to existing and prior lakes and swamps) 
  • Dunes

DPCD provides access to the mapping relating to areas of Aboriginal cultural heritage sensitivity. These maps are intended to assist users to identify areas of cultural heritage sensitivity. Users are advised that these maps provide indicative information about the location and extent of areas of cultural heritage sensitivity. Decisions about the need to prepare a CHMP in relation to a proposed activity should be made with reference to the Regulations.

The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register has a list of any recorded Aboriginal cultural heritage places or sites in Victoria, such as scarred trees, occupation sites or places of burial. This includes the location, detailed description and condition. 

DPC's Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Mini-Poster Series describes Aboriginal heritage places, objects and processes relating to the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria.

2. High Impact Activities

A high impact activity is an activity that is likely to harm Aboriginal cultural heritage. These activities listed within Part 2 - Division 5 of the Regulations include:

  • Changes in land use - for specified purposes where a statutory authority is required
  • Buildings and works for specified uses, if they are a change from the current land use, and if they result in significant ground disturbance (s.43 of the regulations for comprehensive list)
  • An activity requiring an earth resource authorisation (such as mining or quarrying)
  • Extraction or removal of sand if extraction results in significant ground disturbance (even if an earth resource authorisation is not required)
  • Extraction or removal of loose stone on agricultural land on the Victorian Volcanic Plain - on land which has not been cultivated, for the purpose of pasture enhancement
  • Constructing specified items of infrastructure if it results in significant ground disturbance (s.44 of the regulations for comprehensive list)
  • Constructing a dam - if a licence is required under section 67(1A) of the Water Act 1989
  • Dwellings - constructing, or carrying out works for three or more dwellings on a lot
  • Timber production - if over 40 hectares and a permit is required under a planning scheme and it will cause significant ground disturbance
  • Subdivision - into three or more lots for dwellings (if three or more lots are less than 8 ha), or two or more lots for industry
  • Alpine resort - constructing a building or carrying out works in an Alpine resort 
  • Searching for stone - if it will cause significant ground disturbance

In addition, the following high impact activities are frequently overlooked:

  • Section 43 (xxiii) - A utility installation, other than a telecommunications facility. This includes pipes to carry and transmit water and may impact upon private landholders (e.g. farmers)
  • Section 43 (xv) - A warehouse including a minor sports and recreation facility and may impact upon small community groups
  • Section 44 (1) - The construction of any one or more of the following is a high impact activity if the construction would result in significant ground disturbance:
    1. a bicycle track with a length exceeding 100 metres
    2. a road with a length exceeding 100 metres
    3. a walking track with a length exceeding 100 metres

This Section includes bicycle, road or walking tracks that exceed 100 metres and are more common that some of the other items of infrastructure mentioned.

3. Exempt Activities

The following activities are always exempt from the requirement to prepare a Cultural Heritage Management Plan:

  • Constructing one or two dwellings
  • Buildings and works ancillary to a dwelling
  • Services to a dwelling
  • Alteration of buildings
  • Minor works
  • Demolition of a building
  • Consolidation of land
  • Subdivision of existing building
  • Amendments to a statutory authorisation in some instances
  • A jetty for one dwelling
  • Works on the sea-bed of Victorian waters 
  • Emergency works

Please note however that the works that are listed above as exempt do not mean that a planning permit is not required for such works. For all works, Council suggests you contact the Planning and Development Branch on 03 5832 9700 to seek advice on any permit requirements.

What is Significant Ground Disturbance?

Significant ground disturbance involves the disturbance of the topsoil or surface rock layer of the ground or a waterway by machinery in the course of grading, excavating, deep ripping (60cm or deeper), digging or dredging.

Any other disturbance is not significant ground disturbance. Ploughing, other than deep ripping, is not significant ground disturbance despite disturbing the ground.

The Discovery of Objects or Places of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Significance

The Act requires that the discovery of Aboriginal cultural heritage places or objects on any public or private land in Victoria be reported to AAV. The following link provides infomation on Reporting a possible Aboriginal place or object.

What impact will the need for a CHMP have on my Planning Application?

If a CHMP is required to accompany a planning permit application to develop or use a site, the Plan must be prepared and approved by the relevant RAP prior to the planning application being submitted to Council. If it is established that a CHMP is required after a planning permit application has been submitted to Council, the planning application will be placed on hold until the approved CHMP is received by Council.

Fees and Penalties

Please visit Fees and Penalties for information on prescribed fees payable to RAPs for evaluating CHMPs.

More Information

To find out more information about the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2007, contact Aboriginal Affairs Victoria by telephoning 03 9208 3333.