Introduction to Planning laws and Aboriginal culture and heritage in NSW

This page provides advice for Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) and Local Councils about protecting and promoting Aboriginal culture and heritage through local planning laws.

This page contains the following information:

  • NSWALC Planning Fact Sheets 2011
  • NSWALC Submission Zoning in on Aboriginal land and heritage protection
  • Guide for Local Councils - Planning laws and Aboriginal heritage (Coming soon!)

For information about how Aboriginal culture and heritage is managed in NSW through Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), including recommendations for further reform, see the NSWALC Zoning in on Aboriginal land and heritage protection submission below.

For information about how the current planning laws operate, and how Aboriginal heritage can be protected through planning laws, see the NSWALC Planning Fact Sheets at the end of this web page.  

LALCs are encouraged to review the Fact Sheets, NSWALC's submission, and advice for local councils and contact NSWALC with any feedback. Inquiries should be directed to the NSWALC Policy and Research Unit on 02 9689 4444 or via email at

NSWALC Planning Fact Sheets 2011

The following Fact Sheets were developed by NSWALC in August 2010 and have now been updated. They include useful summary information about how Aboriginal heritage is currently managed in NSW though planning laws and Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), in addition to how LALCs can become involved in planning processes.

Note that changes may have occurred to the Standard Instrument LEP and other planning laws since the publication of these fact sheets.

Local Environmental Plans

In March 2010, the NSW Department of Planning released the Potential Amendments to the Standard Instrument - Options Paper which proposed a number of amendments to the Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan (LEP), including changes to the compulsory Aboriginal heritage provisions.

Public comments were invited on the Options Paper which proposed to remove 'Aboriginal objects and places' from the definition of 'heritage item'. NSWALC supported changes that would mean sensitive Aboriginal heritage would no longer need to be publicly mapped in LEPs, and recommended using confidential mapping options to acknowledge culturally sensitive information.

NSWALC has set out recommendations and proposals for further reform in its recent submission Zoning in on Aboriginal land and heritage protection .


Zone Picture

NSWALC also strongly advocates for Aboriginal heritage provisions to remain in the Standard Instrument LEP. This includes providing that, if local Aboriginal communities agree, it may be appropriate for some Aboriginal heritage places to be placed on public maps in LEPs.  

NSWALC's submission also recommends that the Department of Planning work with NSWALC to develop more comprehensive advice about how Aboriginal cultural heritage can be protected through the local government planning framework, in addition to ensuring LALCs and the Aboriginal community are key groups consulted about any developments that may impact on Aboriginal culture and heritage.

To date, the Department of Planning has not yet provided a public response to the submissions received on the Options Paper.

Advice for Local Councils - Planning laws and Aboriginal heritage

Local Government has a key role to play to ensure that Aboriginal cultural heritage is appropriately managed and protected at the local level.

NSWALC has developed a brief Guide for local councils (Coming soon!) outlining how local councils can work to better protect Aboriginal cultural heritage by engaging with the local Aboriginal community and considering options for protecting cultural heritage that may be of a sensitive nature. 

A brief guide to mapping and other options for protecting Aboriginal heritage through LEPs is also listed.