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Archaeological surveys and investigations

When and how to lodge a survey of land for Aboriginal cultural heritage

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (the Act) establishes certain requirements for a person who intends to carry out a survey for Aboriginal cultural heritage. These requirements are set out in section 34A of the Act and relate to:

  • notifications to any relevant Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP), the Secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and any relevant landowner of a person’s intent to carry out a survey
  • the participation of any relevant RAP in the survey, and
  • submitting relevant documentation to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register (VAHR)

In what circumstances does section 34A of the Act apply?

The Act defines a survey as:

  • a survey of land, other than by disturbing or excavating the land, to discover Aboriginal cultural heritage or
  • a survey of land for the purposes of a Preliminary Aboriginal Heritage Test (PAHT)

The term survey is intended to be understood in the generally applied archaeological sense.

If you intend to carry out a survey of land for the purpose of discovering Aboriginal cultural heritage, you must comply with the provisions set out in section 34A of the Act.

You may be carrying out an activity, where identification of Aboriginal cultural heritage is one of several purposes. If so, use a ‘dominant purpose test’ to determine whether your activity is a survey for Aboriginal cultural heritage for the purposes of the Act. The dominant purpose is the ruling, prevailing or most influential purpose of the activity, and should be determined at the time the intention to conduct the activity was formed.

Example: ground inspection

A ground inspection as part of a PAHT may be carried out to determine whether significant ground disturbance has occurred in the activity area. If at the time the intention to carry out the survey was formed determining the extent of significant ground disturbance was the prevailing or most influential purpose of the survey, then section 34A is not relevant to the ground inspection.

Activities which aren't surveys

Activities which aren't considered surveys for Aboriginal cultural heritage for the purpose of the Act include:

  • an inspection of a known Aboriginal place
  • an inspection by an Authorised Officer for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the Act
  • an inspection for the purpose of determining the extent of significant ground disturbance, during which Aboriginal cultural heritage is unexpectedly identified

Where two or more purposes of a survey are considered of equal importance, there may be no dominant purpose. In such case, the provisions in section 34A of the Act may be relevant to the survey.

Section 34A does not apply to a person intending to carry out a survey for the purposes of preparing a cultural heritage management plan, or a survey for the purpose of preparing an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Land Management Agreement.

How do I provide a notice of intention to carry out a survey for Aboriginal cultural heritage?

A notice of intention form is available on the Aboriginal Victoria website. Completing this form will ensure you have satisfied the requirements in section 34A of the Act. This form can be used to notify any relevant RAP or land owner, in addition to the Secretary.

What documentation must be provided to the VAHR?

Any documentation relevant to the survey for Aboriginal cultural heritage must be submitted for recording on the VAHR within 30 days of producing the final report, or within 12 months of giving notice of intention to carry out the survey (whichever is earlier).

In addition to a final report, relevant documentation could include site records, photographs, maps and plans. The lodgement of relevant documentation cover sheet can assist you in meeting the requirements of section 34A of the Act.

It is an offence under the Act if a person who carries out a survey for Aboriginal cultural heritage does not give the relevant documentation to the Secretary for inclusion on the VAHR within the legislated timeframe.

Resources

Reviewed 23 September 2019

Aboriginal Victoria

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