The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 is currently being reviewed, and an exposure draft of the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014 has recently been released.
At Dr Vincent Clark & Associates we are keeping abreast of the proposed changes and several staff members recently attended an information session about the changes held by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
One of the proposed changes to the Act involves the introduction of Preliminary Aboriginal Heritage Tests, or PAHTs, which would formalise ‘due diligence’ assessments that aim to establish whether or not a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) is required. This would be a voluntary process, certified by the Secretary, which would provide developers with greater certainty about their legal obligations in regards to Aboriginal cultural heritage. Some of the triggers for CHMPs, particularly subdivisions of small urban blocks, would also be removed.
As for CHMPs themselves, it is proposed that there be a mechanism whereby approved plans could be amended, rather than the current necessity to go through the whole process from the start – often just to add a slightly enlarged activity area or to amend wording in a management recommendation.
Another significant change would be the establishment of advisory committees, called Activity Advisory Groups (AAGs – yet another new acronym!), in areas where there is no appointed Registered Aboriginal Party. The intent of this is make the consultation process with Traditional Owners more straightforward and transparent. Under the current system, knowing who best to consult with can be difficult where no RAP has been appointed, so this proposed change should provide clarity for heritage advisors and their clients.
Speaking of heritage advisors, another proposed change will involve an accreditation program for Cultural Heritage Advisors who, it is proposed, would be re-named Technical Heritage Advisors. In the session held by OAAV there were some objections to this new term – perhaps simply ‘Heritage Advisors’ would be more appropriate.
This is a brief outline of some of the proposed changes. The full exposure draft can be accessed online, through the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s website, or for an easily digestible overview, you can view a fact sheet via this link.
The public submission period for commenting on the draft Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill is currently open. Submissions on the proposed amendments should be lodged with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria by 2 October 2014.