Large resource and infrastructure projects in Western Australia are often proposed in areas that are of significance to Aboriginal people. The Western Australian Government acknowledges the importance of the unique ties Aboriginal people have to these areas by properly protecting and preserving Aboriginal cultural heritage and by ensuring appropriate native title procedures are followed.
Native title is the legal recognition of the communal rights and interests which Aboriginal people have in land and water, in areas where they have continued to exercise their rights and interests in accordance with traditional law and custom that predates British sovereignty over Australia.
Under the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can apply to have their claims to native title registered with the National Native Title Tribunal. If registered, these claimant groups obtain procedural rights under the NTA, while the Federal Court established whether or not native title still exists.
In Western Australia, the protection of Aboriginal heritage is also subject to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. This Act applies to all types of land tenure in the state and provides protection to Aboriginal sites, and is independent of the NTA.
Proponents should seek advice about Aboriginal heritage matters from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs
before submitting any proposals. Information on the state of native title matters in Western Australia is available from the Land, Approvals and Native Title Unit
in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Historical (or European) heritage is protected under the State Heritage Act 1990
. This Act protects places of significant historical heritage and is managed by the State Heritage Office
and Heritage Council