Last week a member of the Collie team attended a VPELA seminar on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage, which comprised presentations from members of Heritage Services, the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council and a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP).
Some interesting points emerged:
- Aboriginal cultural heritage should be considered earlier in the town planning process at the strategic level as opposed to being considered solely as part of the statutory process.
- Examples were given of projects where more than 30,000 aboriginal artefacts were recovered as part of works carried out under approved Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs).
- An example of how aboriginal heritage was integrated well in a project was by retaining artifacts within open space, the planting of indigenous vegetation and the inclusion of interpretive signs on aboriginal heritage.
- Some artifacts recovered on projects are more than 30,000 years old.
- A majority of Victoria is covered by a RAP however, the remaining areas where no RAP has been appointed is due to multiple Aboriginal parties having heritage claim to the land (rather than there being no aboriginal connection).
Multiple presenters made the point that aboriginal cultural heritage and its importance is undervalued with RAPs being severely underfunded and often reliant upon fees paid by developers as the main source of funding. It was suggested that a significant increase in Government funding is required in order to improve resources to involve RAPs earlier in the strategic planning process as well as allowing RAPs to fulfill more comfortably their statutory obligations.
Additional funding would have the added benefit of facilitating more efficient assessment and approvals by RAPs of CHMPs, which we understand to be anywhere from a two to twelve months’ process depending on the complexity of the CHMP. While a planning permit application can be considered, a decision cannot be made by the responsible authority on a planning permit application until a CHMP (if required to be prepared) has been approved. Improving the efficiency of the approval process of CHMPs would therefore, make more efficient the planning permit application process in instances where a CHMP is required.