Media Release: Aboriginal Relics Investigation

​​Alleged Tasmanian Aboriginal artefacts seized in interstate raid
A search warrant conducted on a property in Sydney has located more than 130 alleged Tasmanian Aboriginal relics.

It is the first investigation under the state's new Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975, which came into effect last month to strengthen the protection of Aboriginal relics.

Enforcement officers with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) joined with New South Wales and Federal counterparts in a highly organised and collaborative joint operation late last week.

The raid followed reports to DPIPWE of Tasmanian Aboriginal relics allegedly being offered for sale on an online auction forum.

DPIPWE Natural and Cultural Heritage Division chief enforcement officer Luke Bond said the Department's investigations identified an address in Sydney, where an Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975 search warrant was conducted by Authorised officers at DPIPWE.

“Numerous Tasmanian Aboriginal relics were located and seized at the property and a person is assisting Authorised Officers at DPIPWE with their inquiries," Mr Bond said.

“The investigation is continuing and if it is determined that there is sufficient evidence, charges will be laid."

“This operation would not have been possible without the collaboration of our interstate enforcement colleagues including the Australian Government Computer Forensic Services and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and I thank them for their support and assistance," Mr Bond said.

The investigation is the first of its kind under the new Aboriginal He​​ritage Act 1975 that commenced last month. The Act amended the previous Aboriginal Relics Act 1975. 

It established a new Aboriginal Heritage Council and introduced new penalties for unlawful interference or damage to an Aboriginal relic. 

The Act interprets a relic to be any object, place or site that is of significance to the Aboriginal people of Tasmania.

Director of Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania Steve Gall said while this matter is still under investigation and it would be inappropriate to make any further comment about this particular case, it is an important warning that it is an offence to sell or offer for sale an Aboriginal relic or object that could be implied to be an Aboriginal relic.

“People need to be aware of the laws in place to protect Tasmania's Aboriginal heritage, and that reports of breaches of the Act are investigated," Mr Gall said.

“The long association of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people with the Tasmanian landscape has left a significant record of where and how Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples have lived and practiced their culture over 40,000 years."

“We are committed to the proper protection and management of Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage."

Under Tasmania's Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975​, it is an offence to sell or offer for sale an Aboriginal relic or object that could be implied to be Aboriginal relics. 

Maximum penalties include fines up to $795,000.

Anyone who has information in relation to the illegal trade in Aboriginal artefacts can anonymously report this to DPIPWE by calling 0417661234.

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