Australian heritage law

Australian heritage laws exist at the National (Commonwealth) level, and at each of Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia State and Territory levels. Generally there are separate laws governing Aboriginal cultural heritage and historical (sometimes referred to as post-contact or non-Aboriginal) heritage. State laws also allow heritage to be protected through Local Government regulations, such as planning schemes, as well.


The heritage laws seek to protect, preserve, present, and transmit the Australian nation's natural, cultural, and historical heritage.[1]

National heritage

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 is legislation passed by the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to enable the Commonwealth to intervene and, where necessary, preserve and protect areas and objects of particular significance to Australia's Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples.[2]

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 protects places of World Heritage, National Heritage and Commonwealth Heritage, The Commonwealth Heritage List includes places such as Federally owned telegraph stations, defence sites, migration centres, customs houses, lighthouses, national institutions such as Parliament and High Court buildings, memorials, islands and marine areas. The Australian National Heritage List is a heritage register, including natural, historic and indigenous places deemed to be of outstanding heritage significance to Australia.

State heritage

New South Wales

The New South Wales legislation's goal is to conserve the State's cultural heritage, and promote public awareness of places, objects, and features of significance to the State's Aboriginal peoples, through the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW).

The Heritage Act 1977 (NSW) also provides for the conservation of environmental heritage items in New South Wales.[3]

On occasion, damage to the environment and aboriginal heritage has been considered in the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales, such as when Chinese billionaire Kuizhang Guo built illegal structures, planted exotic species and built a bar inside a heritage-listed Aboriginal rock cave on Crown land.[4]


The Queensland Heritage Register is a statutory list of places in Queensland that are protected by the Queensland Heritage Act 1992. The register is maintained by the Queensland Heritage Council.[5] Under Section 113 of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992, all local government authorities in Queensland must maintain a local heritage register; the Brisbane Heritage Register is an example of a local government heritage register in Queensland.[6]

On 16 April 2003, the Queensland Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 was passed by Parliament to provide statutory protection to all Aboriginal heritage across the State, irrespective of whether the heritage was previously identified by the State's "Cultural Heritage Coordination Unit," of the Department of Natural Resources and Water.[7] There is a separate Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003 and historical places are protected under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.

South Australia

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 aims to protect and preserve South Australia's Aboriginal heritage.[8] While the act maintains the Aboriginal Heritage Register for the previous legislation it also provides blanket protection for all Aboriginal heritage, whether on the register or not. It also establishes an Aboriginal Heritage Committee of indigenous people appointed by the minister.[9]


The Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 aims to promote the protection and conservation of places of historic cultural heritage significance in Tasmania. The Act established the Tasmanian Heritage Council and the Tasmanian Heritage Register.[10]


Victorian Aboriginal heritage protection is governed by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Under the act all Aboriginal culturally significant aspects are protect by Victorian Law. A steering committee, The Aboriginal Heritage Council was established to allow government a consultation and steerage functionality back to the major Aboriginal Communities within Victoria, referred to as Registered Aboriginal Parties.[11][12]

The Heritage Act 1995[13] provides for the protection and conservation of historical places and objects of cultural heritage significance and the registration of such places and objects. The Act establishes a Heritage Council to oversee heritage policy and implementation; and a Victorian Heritage Register, for listing and protection of places of significance to the state of Victoria.[14] archaeological heritage is also protected by the Heritage Act through blanket protection of archaeological places and objects greater than 50 years old, and through the Victorian Heritage Inventory of historical archaeological sites, as well as historic shipwrecks.[15][16]

The Planning & Environment Act 1987 includes provisions for protecting heritage through Local Planning Policies, and listing places on the Municipal Planning Scheme Heritage Overlay.[17]

See also


  1. "Australia's World Heritage Laws". Australian Government, Department of the Environment. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (Cth).
  3. Heritage Act 1977 (NSW)
  4. Fellner, Carrie (16 November 2019). "'Chinese Gatsby' billionaire built bar in Hunters Hill Aboriginal rock cave". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  5. "Queensland Heritage Register". Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  6. "QUEENSLAND HERITAGE ACT 1992 - SECT 113". Queensland Consolidated Acts. Queensland Government. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  7. Department of Natural Resources and Mines (2005) "Cultural Heritage – Your Duty of Care". Cultural Heritage Information Series. Brisbane.
  8. CROW, H (2002) Conserving Aboriginal Heritage as posted on Conservation Council of South Australia's web page Accessed 6 March 2008
  9. Wallis & Wiltshire, 2008, A History of Aboriginal Heritage Legislation in South Australia,
  10. Tasmanian Government Legislation on-line
  11. "Aboriginal Affairs". Department of Planning and Community Development, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  12. "Aboriginal Cultural Heritage". Department of Planning and Community Development, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  13. Heritage Act 1995 (Vic).
  14. Heritage Council of Victoria’s submission on the Review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act and Regulations, Comments made in response to the January 2009, Discussion Paper Archived 12 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Conservation of Australia's Historic Heritage Places" Archived 12 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Inquiry report 2006
  16. Submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into the conservation of historic heritage places by the Heritage Council of Victoria, October 2005 Archived 13 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  17. "Heritage Overlays, Victorian Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, Last updated: 30 Dec 2013". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
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