The Aboriginal consultation process provides a formal means for Aboriginal people to have input in the management of Aboriginal heritage. In NSW, the Aboriginal heritage consultation process is guided by the “Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Consultation Requirements for Proponents” (DECCW 2010, now Heritage NSW) sometimes referred to as the ACHCRs or ACHCRPs. There are 22 separate tasks to undertake as part of the Aboriginal consultation process which all needs to be documented for an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment (ACHAR).
To describe the whole process is lengthy and complicated, the aim here is to provide an overview of the process, to which there are four main elements:
- Getting the word out there
- Providing information
- Opportunities for Aboriginal feedback
- Input from Aboriginal people into the heritage management process
Similar to all development applications there is a requirement for the Project information to be ‘on public display’ or ‘exhibition’ for the Aboriginal community – ‘to get the word out there. However, unlike the Council development application process, this requirement needs to be fulfilled at the start of the process so that the relevant representatives of the Aboriginal community can be identified and contacted. Aboriginal consultation under the ACHCRs requires the publication of a public notice in a local newspaper, as well as seeking information from government agencies. This process takes approximately 2-3 weeks.
Once the relevant representatives of the Aboriginal community have been identified they become Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) for the project and this process takes approximately 2 weeks. From this point, onwards the RAPs are to be provided with the Project information, as well as the heritage assessment methodology. RAPs have 4 weeks to respond to this information and provide feedback.
Often the assessment will require fieldwork which can include pedestrian survey or excavation. The duration of fieldwork is variable depending on the nature of the Aboriginal heritage and the proposed impacts of the project.
Once the assessment has been completed, it is submitted in a draft format to the RAPs who can provide additional input into the management of Aboriginal heritage for the Project. RAPs have 4 weeks to respond to the draft report and provide feedback.
The Aboriginal consultation process can take 3-6 months depending on the Project requirements. Changes in scope, delayed project information release, or slow communication approvals can significantly slow the Aboriginal consultation process, so these are things to keep in mind if you want your Project to stay on track.