Page 5595 - Week 14 - Thursday, 30 November 2017

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Mr Gentleman: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

(1) The Heritage Act 2004 (the Act) affords statutory protection to all Aboriginal places and objects located within the ACT Government’s jurisdiction; as it is an offence under Section 75 of the Act to damage an Aboriginal place or object without prior approval. The Act does not apply to the actions of Commonwealth entities on National Land or within Designated Areas, however those actions are subject to the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act), which includes Aboriginal heritage.

(2) Enforcement mechanisms for Aboriginal places set out in the Act include ‘Heritage Directions’, which can be issued by the ACT Heritage Council (the Council) under Part 11 of the Act when an Aboriginal place or object is under serious and imminent threat.

The Council also commonly requires the inspection of Aboriginal places, and reporting on the conservation of Aboriginal places, as conditions of approvals issued under the Act. The ACT Government also provides support to the Council in the investigation of reported damage to Aboriginal places as required, with ACT Heritage personnel and a number of Inspectors and Investigators appointed as authorised officers under Part 14 of the Act (refer to NI2014-483). Under that section of the Act, authorised officers have a range of powers, including the power to enter premises, the power to seize things and the power to apply for search warrants.

(3) ACT Heritage received five notifications of potential Aboriginal heritage offences in the 2014-15 financial year; four notifications in the 2015-16 financial year; and two notifications in the 2016-17 financial year. Of these, six notifications were identified as involving no heritage offence.

(4) ACT Heritage reviewed all 11 notifications of potential Aboriginal heritage offences received over the past three financial years, to determine whether Aboriginal places or objects had been damaged. As set out above, in six instances, it was determined that no heritage offence had occurred. In the remaining five instances: one matter was referred to the Access Canberra Investigations Team and is currently under investigation; two matters are still under review by ACT Heritage; and two matters involved correspondence between ACT Heritage and relevant parties.

(5) It is the responsibility of any land owner or developer to work within the legislative framework of the land and planning system in the ACT. This includes the Planning and Development Act 2007, the Heritage Act 2004, the Nature Conservation Act 2014 and the Tree Protection Act 2005.

The ACT Heritage website contains a wide range of forms for Heritage Council approvals and fact sheets and information on obligations and processes in relation to Historic and Aboriginal heritage in the ACT. Owners and managers can also contact the Council directly for detailed information on Aboriginal places, and requirements for the conservation of those places.

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders—heritage
(Question No 851)

Ms Le Couteur asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 1 December 2017:

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