CFA’s LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN CARING FOR COUNTRY
There are key legislative requirements CFA must consider when protecting and caring for the culturally significant sites of the Traditional Owners across Victoria. Legislative requirements are explained in detail on the website for Aboriginal Victoria. Please visit its website for further information.
The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and 2016 Amendment
The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and 2016 Amendment and Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2007 (the Regulations) provide protection and management for Victoria's Aboriginal heritage with streamlined processes linked to the Victorian planning system. The legislation provides protection for all Aboriginal places, objects and ancestral remains regardless of their inclusion on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register or if they are located on public or private land.
To learn more about the Aboriginal Heritage Act, Cultural Heritage Management Plans or Cultural Heritage Permits, please visit the website.
CFA Obligations under the Act
Section 29 of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act exempts harm being done to Aboriginal cultural heritage if the harm is the result of doing an act that is necessary because of an emergency. This should be considered also in the context of the provisions of the CFA Act providing immunity to CFA members when exercising a power/duty in good faith – section 18A and 92 CFA Act. Therefore, during an emergency CFA members are exempt from being charged for damaging Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. However, this does not remove our moral obligation to do what is right and to protect and preserve cultural heritage sites where possible during an incident.
However, during other non-emergency related activities such as operational training or planned burning CFA will not be exempt and plans need to be put in place to ensure we do not damage cultural heritage sites. Under the new Amendments 2016 to the Act, individuals can face charges if damage is caused a to Aboriginal cultural heritage sites.
CFA needs to consider how to avoid damaging Aboriginal cultural heritage sites whether they are formally registered or not. Not all sites will be damaged easily by fire but some may be more exposed to the threat of large, heavy firefighting and earth-moving equipment.
CFA is currently learning how best to manage cultural heritage during planned burning and other non-emergency activities. As a CFA member if you are ever unsure about a particular location or site it is best to contact Aboriginal Victoria.
Aboriginal Victoria (formally Office of Aboriginal Affairs) works across the following three main areas:
Aboriginal policy reform, with a focus on self-determination
Community strengthening and engagement
Cultural heritage management and protection.
Aboriginal Victoria is also responsible for the implementation of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and the Aboriginal Lands Act 1970.
Aboriginal Victoria plays a lead role in establishing the Aboriginal representative arrangements and structure in Victoria, further strengthening Victoria's Aboriginal communities.
The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register
The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register (the Register), or VAHR, established by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, is an important administrative tool for the successful management of Aboriginal cultural heritage. The Register holds the records of all known Aboriginal cultural heritage places and objects within Victoria. Aboriginal heritage places and objects are irreplaceable, non-renewable resources and can also include traditional and spiritual sites of significance. These places or objects are normally identified during archaeological surveys, and are recorded by Cultural Heritage Advisers.
Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) play a key role in the protection and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage. The Register holds information on each Registered Aboriginal Party, their area of responsibility and contact details.
The quality of information available to users of the Register allows for effective management of Aboriginal heritage now and for the future. To date over 30,000 Aboriginal places and objects have been recorded on the VAHR and many of these places and objects are located on private property. There are still many Aboriginal places and objects yet to be discovered.
The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register is not publicly accessible because it contains culturally sensitive information. In accordance with section 146 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, the Register can be accessed by certain people or organisations who need detailed information on cultural heritage places and objects to protect and manage them.
For further information on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage or the Register please go to the Aboriginal Victoria website.