Aboriginal Heritage Council Meeting

The Aboriginal Heritage Council met for their regular monthly meeting on Friday 25 October 2023 in Hobart.

The Council considered five permit applications under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975 and agreed not to oppose four. The Council requested further information regarding the fifth.

An issue of great concern and frustration for the Council and raised at all meetings was the failure of the current regulatory system under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975 to recognise and protect intangible cultural and landscape values. 

The Council opposes the destruction of the Tasmanian landscape as it holds tangible and intangible Aboriginal heritage that connects the Tasmanian Aboriginal community to our ancestors and Aboriginal cultural landscape has value to the community greater than the specific features of discrete registered sites.  The Council believe that genuine consideration, protection, and management of Aboriginal heritage values early in the planning process would help to prevent these connections being continually destroyed without due respect and recognition.  

The Council also considered matters relating to:

  • A presentation regarding the proposed Kingston Bypass development from the Department of State Growth.
  • The potential to prepare submissions under the federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 where State legislation fails to adequately protect Aboriginal heritage.
  • Management of artefacts used in research and repatriation arrangements. 
  • Management of access to Aboriginal heritage information by emergency services staff.
  • The need for clear, structured training pathways and accreditation for Aboriginal Heritage Officers.
  • The relocation of artefacts should not be considered a default mitigation option.
  • Options for streamlining permit consideration. 
  • Key work to include in its Year In Review for 2022-23.  

The Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania provided updates on two projects being undertaken in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) that are informed by an important guiding document, the Detailed Plan for a Comprehensive Cultural Assessment of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, November 2017. The first project was ‘From the Highlands to the Lakes’ (H2L).  The Council noted that the objective of H2L was to improve the understanding of the northernmost regional of the TWWHA as a rich Aboriginal landscape through Before Time (creation stories –from the Old People and earth scientists), Old Time (archaeological models) and This Time (invasion histories and present-day Aboriginal community values and connections). The project deliverables included: 

  • Improve communication and collaboration between land managers (Parks/Hydro) and Aboriginal people in the H2L area.
  • Support active Aboriginal community participation in the H2L project.
  • Develop an Aboriginal re-storying of the H2L area combining present-day and historic Aboriginal perspectives with earth science and archaeological information.
  • Create a list with Community of key Aboriginal heritage sites and Aboriginal landscapes needing active management and/or monitoring in the H2L area.

The project area covers:

  • Central Plateau Conservation Area.
  • Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
  • Great Western Tiers.
  • Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
  • Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
  • Hydro Tasmania impounded lakes (yingina/Great Lake, Lake Augusta, Lake Mackenzie, Little Lake, Arthurs Lake, Huntsman Lake).

The second project presented by the AHT team was ‘Southern Lacuna – Aboriginal occupation in the southern valleys’.  The Council noted that this project would build understandings of the history in these areas of 'lacuna' and of Aboriginal Values told by Tasmanian Aboriginal People and strengthen stories of exchange, life, connections, resilience and decisions. The key elements of this project included: 

  • Locate, document and interpret previously unrecorded heritage.
  • Undertake an assessment of hazards and risks to sites.
  • Collect detailed recordings for ongoing management (including digital recording).

The project deliverables included:

  • Understand traditional histories and knowledge of sites and places that have been lost as a result of European colonisation.
  • Increase the understanding of Aboriginal settlement and change in Tasmania.
  • Present this knowledge to Aboriginal people (old and young) and record for the future.
  • Involve Aboriginal people to actively record and interpret re-discovered heritage. 
  • Monitor and manage baseline data to help understand changes over time and determine when active management was required.

The next Aboriginal Heritage Council meeting will be on Friday 24 November 2023 in Hobart.