Cultural heritage values and mythbusting
We work with landholders and Aboriginal communities to protect Aboriginal cultural values in the landscape, both tangible and intangible.
Many farmers are protecting Aboriginal cultural values on their land and there is support available to help you in this role. This page will:
- help you understand what cultural values there are in the landscape
- explain your legislative requirements
- explain what support is available.
Identifying Aboriginal cultural values in the landscape
Our landscape is rich in Aboriginal culture and history. People have lived on and cared for this country for thousands of years. Evidence of Aboriginal occupation can be found across the landscape.
Aboriginal heritage sites may include visible items like scar trees, tools, grinding grooves and flints.
Other highly significance but less visible sites can include hearths (historic firepits), ochre quarries and unique landscape forms.
There are a number of myths and misconceptions around Aboriginal cultural values on farms. Below are a few of the common ones.
Myth: "My farm will be claimed"
There is no legislation in NSW or Australia that allows Aboriginal people to make any claim over private freehold land.
Even if your property contains Aboriginal sites and cultural values or has high significance to the local Aboriginal community, your land cannot be 'claimed'.
Having culturally significant sites on your property will not affect ownership and in the majority of cases will no prevent existing land use practices from continuing.
Myth: "Anyone can have access to Aboriginal sites"
Aboriginal communities are interested in protecting Aboriginal sites of significance in the best possible way.
Having cultural values on your land does not give people automatic access to sites without permission. Communities are interested in sharing cultural knowledge with landowners and protecting cultural sites together.
If you have cultural sites of significance on your land, there is information and people around to help you protect it:
- Traditional Owner Groups
- Local Aboriginal Lands Councils
- NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
- Local Land Services Aboriginal Communities Officers (refer to your region's website)
The National Parks and Wildlife Act
In NSW, the protection and preservation of Aboriginal objects and places falls within the National Parks and Wildlife Act (NPW) 1974.
This protects Aboriginal objects and Aboriginal places in NSW. Under the NPW Act, it is an offence to do any of the following things without an exemption or defence provided for under the NPW Act (penalties apply):
- You must not knowingly harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object.
- You must not harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place (strict liability). Harm includes destroy, deface or damage of Aboriginal object or Aboriginal Place, and in relation to an object, move the object from the land on which it has been situated.
Find out more about the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
Exercising due diligence
Anyone who exercises due diligence in determining that their actions will not harm Aboriginal objects has a defence against prosecution for the strict liability offence if they later harm an object.
Find out more about the due diligence code of practice.
Support for site protection
If you are interested in finding out more about Aboriginal cultural heritage on your land, contact your Local Land Services office. Our Aboriginal communities officers can offer support, advice and referral.
Through support from NSW and Australian Government funding programs, we also regularly offer support to landholders who want to protect sites on their land.
Find out more about support available in your region.