The new heritage legislation in WA, what does it mean?

The new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 (ACH Act) will become operational from July 1st 2023, launching the Western Australian heritage industry into significant and long overdue reform. One of the most important aspects of this reform is in the recognition of Aboriginal people as the custodians of their cultural heritage, who have clear consultation rights in relation to the management of harm to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (ACH) values on their Country.

What will change?

There are several key changes to the heritage approvals process will occur after July 1st:

  1. The Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC) will become largely defunct. A new DPLH regulatory body called the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council (ACH Council / ACHC) will be established, with their duties including the designation of Local ACH Services (LACHS), make decisions in relation to ACH permits and ACHMPs, and make recommendations relating to prohibition and remediation orders (see sections 19-33 of the ACH Act).

  2. LACHS will be designated as a ‘one-stop’ point of contact for matters relating to ACH and stakeholders needing to engage with the heritage approvals process. Where a LACHS is not designated, the relevant Aboriginal party (RNTBC / PBC / Aboriginal Corporation) will need be consulted instead.  

  3. The Aboriginal Heritage Information System (AHIS) will be replaced with an information system called ACHknowledge. Through this portal, the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Directory can be searched, and ACH Permit applications and ACH Management Plans can be submitted. Within the Directory itself, identified ACH, previous heritage investigations, relevant knowledge holders and LACHS, and existing approvals and notices can be identified. It also includes a portal to submit information regarding damage to ACH.

  4. A clear and detailed Due Diligence Assessment process is outlined, which guides stakeholders through the appropriate authorisation pathway based on the proposed level of harm that might be sustained to a site / ACH (known as the activity tier category – Exempt / Tier 1 / Tier 2 / Tier 3).

  5. Consultation regarding the impacts to and subsequent management of ACH within an activity area is required to be clearly documented and based on the principle of Free and Prior Informed Consent.

Legislation in Practice

Below is a summarised breakdown of the steps required for heritage approvals in areas containing ACH values:

Terra Rosa is excited to be part of the change and work with our clients to get the best possible outcomes for the protection and management of Aboriginal heritage.  To find out how we can help you navigate the change, please get in touch at [email protected]/

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