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Cultural heritage sensitivity

Understand why areas of cultural heritage sensitivity are defined and where they are located.

What are 'areas of cultural heritage sensitivity’?

'Areas of cultural heritage sensitivity' are defined in the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) and relate to landforms and soil types where Aboriginal places are more likely to be located. These include land within 200 metres of named waterways and land within 50 metres of registered Aboriginal cultural heritage places.

Why are 'areas of cultural heritage sensitivity' defined?

'Areas of cultural heritage sensitivity' are only defined for specifying when a cultural heritage management plan (management plan) must be prepared under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Some land use and development activities are more likely to harm Aboriginal cultural heritage when carried out in an 'area of cultural heritage sensitivity'. These activities are defined as ‘high impact activities’ in the Regulations.

If a 'high impact activity' is proposed in an 'area of cultural heritage sensitivity', a management plan must be prepared before the activity can be carried out.

If a management plan is required, an assessment must be carried out of the whole activity and not just the part of the activity that will occur in an area of 'cultural heritage sensitivity'.

How do I know where 'areas of cultural heritage sensitivity' are?

The defined areas of 'cultural heritage sensitivity' are shown on the online mapping tool. While First Peoples - State Relations maps these areas as accurately as possible, this mapping is indicative only and may not represent the true geographic extent as defined in the Regulations.

If you are unsure about whether land is in an 'area of cultural heritage sensitivity', you may choose to engage a heritage advisor to assist you.

What if the land has already been impacted by past land use or development activities?

The Regulations also define ‘significant ground disturbance’. If all the 'area of cultural heritage sensitivity' on the land where you are proposing your activity has been subject to significant ground disturbance, a management plan is not required for the activity. First Peoples - State Relations does not map areas of significant ground disturbance.

However, significant ground disturbance does not apply to an Aboriginal place itself. As such, a management plan is required if you are proposing a 'high impact activity' on land where an Aboriginal Place is registered, even if the area has been subject to significant ground disturbance.

First Peoples - State Relations has prepared a significant ground disturbance practice note, which sets out what significant ground disturbance is and what evidence you might need to show it has occurred.

Practice Note - Significant Ground Disturbance
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Is an 'area of cultural heritage sensitivity' the same as cultural heritage significance?

No. Part of the purpose of a management plan is to determine the cultural heritage significance of any cultural heritage places on that land. The cultural heritage significance of the area will not be known until a management plan is prepared.

Can Aboriginal places be found outside areas of 'cultural heritage sensitivity'?

Yes. Aboriginal cultural heritage can be found all across Victoria. Thousands of generations of Aboriginal people have lived throughout Victoria and Aboriginal places and objects are located in even the most intensively developed regions.

You should consider the possible impact of a new land use or development activity on Aboriginal cultural heritage, even if the activity will not be carried out in an 'area of cultural heritage sensitivity' or an area that has been subject to significant ground disturbance.

You may choose to engage a heritage advisor to assist you in managing your activity’s risk of harming Aboriginal cultural heritage.