Guest speakers at the Planning for Aboriginal Heritage PIA Victoria Professional Development Seminar were Harry Webber, Acting Manager Heritage Strategy, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, Astrid Di Carlo, Special Counsel and Annette Jones, Solicitor of Russell Kennedy.

We were given a brief review of the background to Aboriginal heritage places and objects of Aboriginal cultural heritage significance in Victoria by Harry which was extremely beneficial for me given that my previous working experience, prior to working in Victoria was in the UK and my knowledge of aboriginal heritage was limited to a small number of social anthropology modules undertaken as part of my university degree.

Astrid provided a comprehensive review of the need for and requirements of the cultural heritage management plan (CHMP) and presented various VCAT case studies highlighting the difficulties associated with establishing whether significant land disturbance had occurred and other technical issues associated with the submission of CHMP to responsible authorities.

Harry introduced the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act and associated processes and parties involved.¬† He explained that as the Act has been in place since 2006, four years of data associated with its implementation is now available making it possible to see the results of its introduction into the planning system and review how it has successfully “kicked into gear“.

We were reminded that the Aboriginal Heritage Council Victoria was established under this Act to provide advice on issues relating to cultural management affairs and consists of 11 people, (which is relatively small compared with the Aboriginal Heritage Council in New South Wales with 150 people).  There are nine registered Aboriginal communities covering a wide range of areas of Victoria (not all areas are covered yet) who are involved in the decision making processes around cultural heritage

Overall, the presentations were very useful in providing an introduction to Aboriginal heritage, helpful advice on the requirements and processes involved when composing and submitting a CHMP and reviewing the results of the implementation of the Act.

For further information on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage issues please review the relevant section included on the Department of Planning and Community Development webpage.