A NSW Government website

Conservation program

How we support communities to manage and protect declared Aboriginal places, objects and other significant sites, and what to do if you suspect a site or object has been harmed.


Physical evidence of Aboriginal occupation and history can be seen across the landscape of New South Wales in many diverse natural forms such as rock art and stone tools. Aboriginal culture is connected to Country, including waterways, animals and plants. These sites and elements of the landscape are associated with Dreaming stories and cultural learning. They include, but are not limited to:

  • shell middens
  • stone artefact scatters
  • isolated artefacts
  • grinding grooves
  • rock art and engravings
  • rock shelters
  • scarred trees
  • stone arrangements
  • stone and ochre quarries
  • fish traps
  • water holes
  • burials. 


To report alleged harm to Aboriginal sites or objects, call the Environment Line on 131 555.

Our program

We partner with Aboriginal communities to do on-ground works to conserve Aboriginal cultural heritage.

On-ground conservation works aim to repair damage caused by:

  • ageing, weathering or other natural processes
  • vandalism or inappropriate land uses. 

We use various practices and techniques to conserve the different types of sites and objects.

Aboriginal objects, significant sites and declared Aboriginal places are managed and protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Requirements for preparing Aboriginal cultural heritage management plans

An Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan (ACH management plan) provides direction for the day-to-day management of Aboriginal cultural heritage to ensure cultural values are protected. It is a management tool for development or conservation projects which affect Aboriginal cultural heritage to ensure consent conditions are met. ACH management plans should be prepared by project managers in consultation with the Aboriginal community.

ACH management plans are commonly needed for state significant projects (e.g. state significant development and state significant infrastructure) but can also be used with an Aboriginal heritage impact permit, or for conservation projects.

Each section below describes a key part of an ACH management plan and how to prepare one according to our requirements.

We also have a checklist to help you prepare your plan.

Go to checklist

Aboriginal community involvement

Always work with the Aboriginal community and any registered Aboriginal parties for the area to prepare an Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan. The plan should include:

  • a cultural safety protocol developed by the registered Aboriginal parties
  • a process for regular review of the plan with advice from registered Aboriginal parties
  • a method for resolving conflict (in relation to the plan) that cannot be resolved between a proponent and the Aboriginal community
  • a strategy for giving Aboriginal stakeholders reasonable access to cultural heritage items on the site
  • any obligation under Native Title.
Outline relevant approvals

Outline the relevant approvals for the project, such as works approved under an Aboriginal heritage impact permit or state significant project.

Aboriginal cultural heritage induction

For any planned works, include a process for an Aboriginal cultural heritage induction to ensure construction workers and contractors understand relevant Aboriginal cultural heritage management rules.

Recording known Aboriginal cultural heritage

List all recorded Aboriginal objects, sites, places, and intangible heritage (e.g. stories and cultural practices) within a project area as a quick and easy reference guide.

It is best practice to map Aboriginal objects in and next to the project area to reduce accidental impacts and help identify unexpected finds.

Archaeological excavation and monitoring

For any planned archaeological excavation, include an excavation and/or site monitoring plan. Minimum requirements are set out in the Code of practice for the archaeological investigation of aboriginal objects in NSW.

The archaeological plan should:

  • show meaningful Aboriginal community involvement in developing and carrying out the plan
  • describe the sampling strategy and how it relates to the proposed project impacts
  • have methods to record all Aboriginal objects excavated at each site (e.g. number of artefacts, raw material type, artefact type etc.)
  • include methods to assess the archaeological and cultural heritage significance of any Aboriginal objects, including consideration of cumulative impact
  • include standards for labelling objects (including the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System site number)
  • give information on updates to the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System database and on care agreement arrangements.
Ancestral remains

Include a protocol for discovery of potential ancestral remains. The protocol should outline the process for:

  • stopping works
  • notifying the local police station
  • protecting the site
  • assessing, investigating, recording and managing the remains
  • deciding when work may resume.
Unexpected finds

Create a procedure for unexpected finds, including the stop work, notification and assessment processes to be followed.

When new Aboriginal objects are discovered, add them to all baseline mapping to ensure their protection.

Long-term care and control of Aboriginal objects

Describe the plans for long-term protection of any Aboriginal objects managed under the Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan.

Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, a care agreement is required before arranging the long-term storage or care of any Aboriginal objects within a Keeping Place or other suitable location. This requirement applies to state significant projects. A care agreement can only be in place if the site is registered on the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System.

Find out how to transfer control of Aboriginal objects to an Aboriginal community.

If objects are not placed immediately into the care and control of the Aboriginal community, the ACH management plan must include:

  • the type and location of, and security and access arrangements for, a temporary storage facility
  • how long the object will be in temporary storage and a date of completion for reburial or formal transfer to the local Aboriginal community
  • a clear strategy for transfer to the Aboriginal community or reburial.

If there is a proposal to return Aboriginal objects to the landscape, state when and how the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System will be updated.

Notification process

Outline the process for notifying us of any new sites or changes to existing sites (whether destroyed, salvaged, and/or subject to conservation measures) as required by the legislation.

Find out how to record and notify Heritage NSW about Aboriginal sites in New South Wales.

Consent conditions

Outline any development consent conditions covered by the Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan and the procedures to ensure the conditions are met.

Ecologically sustainable development

Consider these principles of ecologically sustainable development in the Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan: cumulative impact and intergenerational equity. To effectively consider these principles, the Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan should explain:

  • what was (and is) the nature of the Aboriginal cultural heritage at the site and its local and regional contexts
  • activities in the past which have impacted or conserved Aboriginal cultural heritage, including links to more detailed archaeological or cultural reports
  • activities in the future which could impact or conserve Aboriginal cultural heritage, with the priority being to avoid harm wherever possible.
Review and evaluation

Outline how the Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan interacts with any other environmental management plans for the project/s. This ensures the timing of actions in all plans reflect priorities, construction time frames, project operation, compliance and reporting schedules.

The Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan is a living document and should be regularly updated. Review and evaluation of heritage management performance against objectives, policies and audits can improve performance.


For future audits, keep all records about the Aboriginal cultural heritage management plan, such as induction, training and reports of unexpected finds. The plan should also detail how records will be stored.

Contact us

Heritage NSW

Phone: 02 9873 8500

Email: [email protected]