More than Flora and Fauna

NSWALC has been advocating for better protections for Aboriginal culture and heritage since the late 1970’s. This page provides information about the current NSW Government reform process regarding the laws managing Aboriginal culture and heritage in NSW.

NSWALC is seeking for the reforms to deliver better protections for Aboriginal culture and heritage and decision making rights to Aboriginal peoples. For more information on the current laws please see NSWALC’s Site Protection Fact Sheets available.


This page contains the following sections:

  • NSWALC 2018 Submission to the NSW Government in Response to the Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 and related proposals
  • Draft Culture and Heritage Bill released for consultation
  • NSWALC submission in response to Government model for reform
  • Proposed NSW Government model 2013
  • NSWALC research - Three proposed models for new Aboriginal culture and heritage laws
  • NSWALC and NTSCORP submission to the review - December 2011
  • NSWALC Background Papers - Reforming Aboriginal culture and heritage laws

NSWALC has provided a  submission to the NSW Government in response to the Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018  (Draft Bill) and related proposals. 


Draft Culture and Heritage Bill released for consultation

The NSW Government has released a  draft Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Bill  for public consultation.


NSWALC encourages the Network and members of the Aboriginal community to engage in this important opportunity to improve Aboriginal culture and heritage laws in NSW.

NSWALC has strongly advocated for Culture and Heritage laws that build on the existing structures of the Aboriginal Land Rights Network, and recognise the existing legislative powers and statutory functions of Aboriginal Land Councils relating to Aboriginal culture and heritage.

To assist the Network to engage in this issue NSWALC has prepared the following information materials. NSWALC will provide updated advice on the proposals over the coming weeks. 

Network  Message

Guide to Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 

Summary of NSWALC position compared to Government model

Detailed comparison table of current laws, proposed models and NSWALC position

Information sheet for LALCs including public consultation details

NSWALC's Principles for Reform 

Summary of NSWALC's 2013 submission

NSWALC will undertake further analysis of the reform proposals and distribute further advice shortly.

NSWALC encourages LALCs to carefully consider the Government's proposals, particularly to build on LALC's current Culture and Heritage functions.

More information about the Government's reform proposals and public consultations can be accessed at

If you would like to discuss the proposed reforms, please contact the NSWALC Strategy and Policy Unit on 02 9689 4444 or email .

NSWALC Submission response to Government model for reform

NSWALC  prepared a detailed submission in response to the NSW Government's proposed model for new Aboriginal Culture and Heritage laws released in 2013, outlining that NSWALC does not support key elements of the proposed government model.

NSWALC's submission makes over 50 recommendations, including that:

  • Further consultation with Aboriginal communities is needed prior to the release of any draft legislation,
  • Any new laws must build upon existing Aboriginal controlled administrative and governance structures,
  • New laws must provide rights for Aboriginal people to refuse an activity or development where there will be unacceptable impacts to Aboriginal heritage, in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples,
  • A genuinely independent Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Commission to undertake key oversight, governance, support, advocacy and compliance functions should be established,
  • Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title groups must be incorporated into a new model,
  • Roles for Government should be kept to a minimum, and
  • Any new model must be properly funded.

 NSWALC thanks all LALCs who made submissions and provided feedback to NSWALC.

The OEH advised that 147 submissions were made in response to the Government's proposed model.  Submissions from other organisations and individuals are available on the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) website at:

The timeframes for reform originally provided by the OEH appear to have been extended and the NSW Government has not announced the next stages of the reform process.

Proposed NSW Government model 2013

NSW Office for Environment and Heritage (OEH) released a model outlining  proposals for new Aboriginal culture and heritage laws in 2013.

In response to the Government proposals the Council of NSWALC developed an initial  policy position  on a number of key aspects of the Government's proposed model.

NSWALC released a  Network Message and  Information Sheet providing initial advice about the proposals.

Overall, the Government proposals lack detail in a number of key areas, and as such it is not clear how they will work, be administered and be funded. However, it is clear that they will have significant impacts on how Aboriginal culture and heritage is managed in NSW and on LALCs, particularly those undertaking culture and heritage initiatives and sites work.

Any LALC wishing to discuss the NSWALC position or the Government's proposals can contact the NSWALC Policy Unit on 02 9689 4479 or via email at

More information about the proposed Government model can be accessed on the OEH website at:

In addition, NSWALC undertook consultations in 2012 to seek feedback on a number of  proposed models for new laws (see proposed models below). NSWALC thanks all those who participated in the workshops and provided feedback. An  outcomes report of the consultations reveals that there is general agreement that on a number of key areas that new legislation should address in order to better protect Aboriginal heritage.


The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) sought feedback on three alternative models for new laws to manage and protect Aboriginal culture and heritage in NSW. The three models are outlined in a report commissioned by NSWALC titled 'Protecting the Past, Guarding the Future'.

The models have been proposed in order to encourage discussion and debate about the merits of different possible approaches to legislative reform.

The three proposed models for reform are:

Model 1: Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Commissions, which is based on the recommendations of past reviews and some aspects of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority,

Model 2: Two-tiered Aboriginal Land Councils, which references some Indigenous committees established by First Nations (North American and Canadian) groups), and

Model 3: Registered Aboriginal Parties, which references the current Victorian system with significant changes to recognize the network of existing organizations in NSW such as Land Councils and Native Title groups.

NSWALC undertook consultations with the Land Rights network and a number of key stakeholder groups including native title groups in 2012.

An Outcomes Report on the consultations is available here.

Common themes from the consultations included:

a.   Benefits of building on existing structures including the Aboriginal Land Council network and native title  rather than creating new structures (if properly funded and resourced),
b.   Recommendations for further discussions to be had about bringing Land Councils and Native Title groups together,
c.   Aboriginal people must having decision making roles, not Government,
d.  Need better methods of protection, and any new system needs to better integrate with local government and planning laws.

NSWALC Aboriginal culture and heritage reform petition

NSWALC has prepared a petition calling on the NSW Government to:

  • Legislate to recognise Aboriginal peoples as the rightful owners of Aboriginal culture and heritage in NSW,
  • Ensure international human rights instruments, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, underpin legislation on Aboriginal culture and heritage, and
  • Ensure that a genuine process is undertaken to reform Aboriginal culture and heritage laws, including consultation with all Aboriginal communities in NSW including minimum one months notice given to Aboriginal communities regarding consultation dates and times.

We are aiming to obtain 10,000 signatures so that Aboriginal culture and heritage reforms will be debated in Parliament and given the appropriate level of consideration by Government in the lead up to the reform being brought before Cabinet for a determination later in the year.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in signed petitions so far. Please keep collecting as many signatures as possible!

Original signatures are required for the petition to be considered by the Government. Every person signing a petition must write their address after their signature.

Please return signed petitions to:  
Policy & Research Unit
PO Box 1125


NSWALC has prepared a fact sheet the provides more information about the petition.

Please contact the NSWALC Policy and Research Unit on 02 9689 4444 or if you would like further information about the broader reform process, or copies of resource kits.


In October 2011 the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) released a discussion paper titled 'Aboriginal heritage legislation in NSW: Public consultation on issues for reform'. The OEH advised that this would constitute the first round of consultations in the review process.

The OEH accepted written and verbal submission until 31 December 2011. The OEH have now published submissions made to the first round of the review process on their website at:

NSWALC developed a Template Letter to assist Local Aboriginal Land Councils and members of the Aboriginal community to have a say. NSWALC also developed a template letter to assist members of the public to have a say about the reforms.

NSWALC and NTSCORP provided a submission to the discussion paper, titled 'Our Culture in Our Hands' that can be downloaded here.

NSWALC and NTSCORPs submission makes a number of recommendations, including the following:

  • Consultation: To ensure that the views of the Aboriginal community are appropriately considered and incorporated, options for the reform of Aboriginal culture and heritage laws must not be prepared until after more comprehensive consultation with the Aboriginal community has occurred
  • Prioritising Aboriginal input: NSWALC and NTSCORPcall on the Government to ensure that Aboriginal views on possible reform of Aboriginal culture and heritage laws are prioritised above that of other stakeholders.
  • Independent reform process: To ensure the Working Party remains independent in its views and advice, and to eliminate any potential conflict or interest, NSWALC and NTSCORP strongly recommend the Government engage an independent third party to assist in the preparation of Working Party reports and recommendations, and to undertake future public consultations.
  • Recognition of Aboriginal rights: NSWALC and NTSCORP call on the Government to ensure Aboriginal interests are appropriately represented on the Working Party, through the dedication of Aboriginal specific seats on the Working Party. It is unacceptable that only one of the 13 proposed members of the Working Party is specifically identified to represent Aboriginal interests.

NSW Government announces revised review process - October 2011

In late October2011 the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) released information on the OEH website advising of a revised law reform process, and that consultations on developing options to reform NSW Aboriginal culture and heritage laws were to take place in 25 locations around NSW during November and December 2011.

NSWALC and NTSCORP raised major concerns about the extremely short 'public consultation' process, andlimited notice that has been provided to the community. NSWALC and NTSCORP also have significant concerns about the composition of the Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Reform Working Party. These concerns, and an overview of the process to date, are outlined in further detail in a Network Message  and Fact Sheet.

NSWALC background papers - Reforming Aboriginal culture and heritage laws

In February 2010, when amendments to the Aboriginal culture and heritage provisions in the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 were introduced into Parliament, the NSW Government announced it would establish a Working Party to consider options for establishing independent Aboriginal heritage legislation for NSW.

With "broad reform" of the state's Aboriginal culture and heritage regime again on the Government's agenda, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has commissioned the following three research papers to stimulate discussion and debate:

'Our Sites, Our Rights - Returning control of Aboriginal sites to Aboriginal communities: A summary of key recommendations of past Aboriginal heritage reviews in NSW'

This report provides a succinct summary of the history of reforms to Aboriginal culture and heritage laws in NSW and outlines the key findings and recommendations of previous reform attempts, including the Keane Committee Reports in the early 1980's and the reports of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Working Group in the mid-1990's.


'Caring for Culture: Perspectives on the effectiveness of Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia';

Original research was conducted and is used in this paper to examine some of the strengths and weaknesses in three other legislative regimes. Aboriginal people, government representatives, lawyers and heritage professionals in other states were interviewed to find out what some of the key issues are with the culture and heritage laws in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.



'Commonwealth, State and Territory Heritage Regimes: summary of provisions for Aboriginal consultation'.

This report, completed by the National Native Title Tribunal, provides an overview of the culture and heritage laws in other Australian states and territories, with a focus on  provisions relating to consultation requirements.


Click here
 for a network message about the background papers.


If you have any comments, feedback or questions about the reports, or would like more information about the broader reform process, please contact the NSWALC Policy and Research on 02 9689 4444 or