Harm to Aboriginal objects and declared Aboriginal Places should be avoided. We issue Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits where harm to the object or place cannot be avoided. You will need to apply and be granted an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit before the activity can take place.
An Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP) is the legal instrument issued by Heritage NSW under Part 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Section 90 relates specifically to AHIPs.
Will your activity cause harm?
Follow the steps below to determine whether your proposed activity will harm an Aboriginal object or declared Place and therefore you will need to apply for an AHIP.
The Due Diligence Code of Practice for the Protection of Aboriginal Objects in NSW (Due Diligence Code of Practice) can be used by individuals or organisations who intend to undertake activities that could harm Aboriginal objects.
Due diligence is not mandatory and is not required in all circumstances.
The Due Diligence Code of Practice provides guidance on a process you can follow to determine whether:
- Aboriginal objects are present in an area
- Aboriginal objects will be harmed by an activity
- Further investigation is warranted
- The activity requires an AHIP application.
If Aboriginal objects are present in the area of your proposed activity, you must conduct an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment of the area.
Following the Due Diligence Code of Practice can provide a legal defence against prosecution for harming Aboriginal objects if, after following due diligence, it was determined Aboriginal objects were unlikely to be present.
Due diligence cannot be used in some circumstances, for example:
- in declared Aboriginal Places
- to support planning proposals and major projects.
In these instances, and if Aboriginal objects are present in the area of your proposed activity, you must conduct an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment.
Investigate and Assess
The investigation and assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage is undertaken to:
- identify whether Aboriginal cultural values and objects are present
- assess the nature and extent Aboriginal cultural values and objects
- assess the harm a proposed activity may cause to Aboriginal objects and declared Aboriginal Places.
This process provides a way to clearly identify the harm that your activities will cause, what is avoidable and what is not.
Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment Report
The Guide to Investigating, Assessing and Reporting on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in NSW describes the process to follow and requirements for Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment reports.
The report should include:
- the results of your investigation and assessment
- recommended actions to be taken before, during and after an activity to manage and protect any Aboriginal objects and declared Aboriginal Places that have been identified
- supporting information for an AHIP application where harm cannot be avoided
The report needs to meet the requirements of the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019.
Standards for Archaeological Investigations of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage
The Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigation of Aboriginal Objects in NSW (Archaeological Investigation Code of Practice) supports the process of investigating and assessing Aboriginal cultural heritage. It sets out minimum standards for archaeological investigations in NSW where an AHIP application is likely to be made.
Excavations that can be carried out in accordance with the Archaeological Investigation Code of Practice will not need an AHIP. The Archaeological Investigation Code of Practice describes what is required when undertaking test excavation as a part of an archaeological investigation without an AHIP. If test excavations comply with methods set out in the Code, the testing is excluded from the definition of harm.
Excavations not consistent with the Code, or in areas where the Code does not apply, will need an AHIP. This will provide a defence to prosecution for harm to Aboriginal objects or places.
Consult with Aboriginal People
We acknowledge and respect the rights of Aboriginal people to determine the cultural significance of their heritage. We require AHIP applicants to consult with Aboriginal people who hold cultural knowledge that will help to determine the cultural significance of Aboriginal objects and/or places in a proposed project area.
This is in accordance with requirements under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019.
The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Consultation Requirements for Proponents outlines how to consult with Aboriginal people. These requirements:
- Apply to all activities throughout NSW that have the potential to harm Aboriginal objects or places and that require an AHIP
- Support other departmental policies and procedures.
Find out how to apply for an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit and what you need to include in your application.
To apply for an Aboriginal heritage impact permit (AHIP) you will first need to conduct an investigation to identify what Aboriginal cultural heritage will be harmed by a proposed activity. Once this assessment has been made and if harm cannot be avoided, you should apply for an AHIP.
An AHIP can be issued by Heritage NSW under Part 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 where harm to an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal Place cannot be avoided. Section 90 of the Act relates specifically to AHIPs.
An AHIP can be issued, transferred, varied, surrendered, revoked or suspended.
When to apply for an AHIP
Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 it is an offence to harm an Aboriginal object or place. A defence to this is to apply for an AHIP.
An AHIP provides a defence if:
- The harm was authorised by the AHIP
- The conditions of that AHIP were not contravened.
You should apply for an AHIP if your proposed activity will directly or indirectly harm an Aboriginal object or a declared Aboriginal Place.
When not to apply
You may not need to apply for an AHIP to harm an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal Place if your activity:
- was authorised by or under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989
- was authorised by or under the Rural Fires Act 1997in relation to emergency fire fighting or bushfire hazard reduction work
- was required or permitted under a conservation agreement entered into under the NPW Act
- was required for the conservation or protection of an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal Place and was carried out by Heritage NSW or person under the direction of that officer
- occurred while an Aboriginal person was undertaking a traditional cultural activity (not a commercial activity).
You may not require an AHIP before causing harm to Aboriginal objects only if you:
- undertake a test excavation in accordance with the Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigation in NSW
- have undertaken due diligence in accordance with Due Diligence Code of Practice for the Protection of Aboriginal Objects in NSWor industry-specific codes of practice specified in the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019 and determined that Aboriginal objects are not present or are unlikely to be present and an activity will not harm those objects.
A note about our publications:
Although some of our publications may refer to NSW Heritage Office, Office of Environment, Climate Change and Water or Office of Environment and Heritage these publications are still our current guidance. Please contact us if you have any questions.