As administrators of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (the Act), Aboriginal Victoria is satisfied that Aboriginal cultural heritage in the Western Highway Duplication activity area is and will be appropriately protected and managed.
We are also satisfied that the assessment and planning required by the Act has been conducted in accordance with that legislation.
The Act is Victoria’s principal statute to manage and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage. The Act’s objectives are underpinned by the principle of Aboriginal self-determination. It recognises and authorises Traditional Owners as the primary guardians, keepers and knowledge holders of their cultural heritage.
The Act has been written to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage, empower Traditional Owners to protect their cultural heritage and distinctive rights, and to promote respect for Aboriginal cultural heritage throughout Victoria.
To do this, the Act:
- established the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (VAHC) to appoint Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) and advise the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on matters relating to Aboriginal cultural heritage at a State-wide level
- provides mechanisms to manage and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage – including Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs), cultural heritage permits and cultural heritage management agreements
- provides enforcement and compliance measures to support this protection. The Act contains offences with significant penalties for breaches and provides for Authorised Officers and Aboriginal Heritage Officers to enforce it
The VAHC embodies the principle of Aboriginal self-determination and is critical for the success of the Victorian Aboriginal cultural heritage management system. The VAHC is made up of 11 Victorian Traditional Owners. It is these Traditional Owners, not Government, who make decisions about who speaks for the cultural heritage of their Country; carefully and after a deliberative assessment of applications from Traditional Owner groups.
In 2007, Martang Pty. Ltd. (Martang) was appointed by the VAHC as the RAP with decision-making responsibilities for protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage in their area. This area included the Western Highway Duplication.
In October 2013, Martang approved a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) for the Western Highway Duplication – Mile Post Lane (Buangor) to Ararat. Aboriginal Victoria is satisfied that the approved CHMP means that Aboriginal cultural heritage is and will be properly protected and managed.
In February 2017, reports were received expressing concern about the possible existence of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the Western Highway duplication activity area. AV responded and worked in partnership with female Djap Wurrung Elders and Martang and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC), to conduct field inspections and consultations on 17 February 2017 and 4 May 2017. On both occasions, the Djap Wurrung Elders and representatives of Martang and EMAC were satisfied that Aboriginal cultural heritage will be protected in accordance with the Act.
Beyond this, a further realignment of the original planned route of the Western Highway duplication activity occurred to protect even more trees. Aboriginal Victoria will continue to work in partnership with relevant Traditional Owner groups to make informed decisions to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Reviewed 23 September 2019