The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (the Act) provides for the protection of Aboriginal intangible heritage through registration on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register (VAHR).
Recognising that the practicalities associated with protecting Aboriginal intangible heritage are different from those of tangible cultural heritage, Aboriginal intangible heritage is dealt with distinctly within the Act. It is defined as:
…any knowledge of or expression of Aboriginal tradition, other than Aboriginal cultural heritage, and includes oral traditions, performing arts, stories, rituals, festivals, social practices, craft, visual arts, and environmental and ecological knowledge, but does not include anything that is widely known to the public.
Aboriginal intangible heritage also includes any intellectual creation or innovation based on or derived from anything referred to [above]…
Once registered, an Aboriginal intangible heritage agreement is required to use Aboriginal intangible heritage for commercial purposes. Agreements are designed to give Traditional Owners control over the protection, management and use of their traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and cultural innovations, and can be made between Traditional Owners and any other party.
The registration of Aboriginal intangible heritage is entirely voluntary. However, the more detailed the description provided at the time of registration; the more protection may be afforded. It is not compulsory to complete all sections of the component forms, and applications will be considered even if sections are left blank, in recognition of the sensitive nature of some Aboriginal intangible heritage and of the difficulties that can be involved in defining Aboriginal intangible heritage in written form. Where possible, supporting material should be supplied, such as photographs or audio-visual material.
The registration of Aboriginal intangible heritage information in Victoria consists of two parts: the primary and secondary recording forms.
The primary recording form is the VAHR–Aboriginal Intangible Heritage (VAHR–AIH) form. This records basic information about the Aboriginal intangible heritage, including a brief description, an indication of whether the information is sensitive or not, the component forms used for more detailed recording, the Traditional Owners of the Aboriginal intangible heritage, associated Aboriginal cultural heritage, consultation details, safeguarding requirements, and an indication of any knowledge held by Traditional Owners only.
The secondary recording forms are the component forms. The component forms are for recording detailed information about the Aboriginal intangible heritage, and information relevant to the ‘category’ of Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered. More than one component form can be completed for the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered, in recognition that Aboriginal intangible heritage will often relate to more than one category defined by the forms. Likewise, multiple component forms for the same category can be completed, to reflect multiple versions of the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered. At least one component form must always be included with the primary recording form.
Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register–Aboriginal Intangible Heritage (VAHR–AIH) primary recording form
The following guidelines detail how each section on the primary recording form is to be completed.
1. Applicant information
The Act stipulates that only registered Aboriginal parties, registered native title holders and Traditional Owner group entities can apply to have Aboriginal intangible heritage recorded on the VAHR. Applicant information should be that of one of the above groups. The date of preparation or submission of the application should also be included in this section.
2. Brief description of the Aboriginal intangible heritage
This section should include a title and brief description (max 100 words) of the Aboriginal intangible heritage. The information in this section may be distributed to other persons, including to Traditional Owner groups for the purpose of consultation, and to any person seeking information as to whether an Aboriginal intangible heritage agreement is required. This information should therefore be considered public. Sensitive or detailed information can be recorded in other sections of the primary recording form and component forms if the Applicant wishes.
3. [OFFICE USE ONLY] Relevant Aboriginal intangible heritage agreement
Office use only. Please leave blank.
4. Sensitive information
Select ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Selecting yes indicates that information included in the application requires culturally appropriate protocols to be followed in managing the information, and that information provided should be considered private. If selecting ‘yes’, describe here the requirements for handling the information according to cultural protocols (for example, that it should only be viewed by a certain gender, or by certain people at a certain age). If you would like to discuss how information will be handled before submitting an application, we encourage applicants to get in touch by phone or email.
If selecting ‘no’, the information will be managed according to Aboriginal Victoria’s standard processes. All information about Aboriginal cultural heritage and intangible heritage is treated with sensitivity and respect for the rights and responsibilities of Traditional Owners and is only made available to those directly involved in the management of that heritage.
5. Aboriginal intangible heritage category
Six ‘categories’ of Aboriginal intangible heritage have been defined, to facilitate the collection of information relevant and appropriate to the Aboriginal intangible heritage being recorded. Each category has a corresponding component form.
Component forms can be completed for more than one category. For example, a registration of a ceremony might comprise a component form for Category C. Social practices, ceremony, and festive events, as well as component forms for Category B. Performing arts to record the details of a particular dance that occurs as part of the ceremony, and for Category E. Visual arts and crafts, to record the skills and knowledge associated with the production of special clothing worn as part of the ceremony.
Likewise, multiple component forms relating to a single category may be submitted to reflect different versions of the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered. For example, two component forms for category A. Oral traditions and expressions may be submitted, detailing two versions of a creation story, told by different family groups or Elders.
Use this section to select the category/ies of Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered and indicate how many of each component form is being submitted, by including the number of component forms against each relevant category.
6. Traditional Owners of the Aboriginal intangible heritage
List the Traditional Owner groups of the Aboriginal intangible heritage. Traditional Owner groups can be groups represented by the Applicant, for example family groups represented by a registered Aboriginal party, or individual Traditional Owner Groups represented by a registered Aboriginal party.
Alternatively, Traditional Owner groups listed here can reflect collective ownership by more than one Traditional Owner representative structure. For example, two RAPs might jointly register Aboriginal intangible heritage concerning environmental knowledge related to plants occurring across the Country of both parties.
A RAP and Registered Native Title Holder representing one Traditional Owner group may both be listed as Traditional Owners in the event that these representative structures are distinct from one another.
All the Traditional Owner groups listed in this section must be consulted during the preparation of any Aboriginal intangible heritage agreement related to this Aboriginal intangible heritage registration.
7. Associated Aboriginal cultural heritage places or Aboriginal intangible heritage
Provide the registration details of any known Aboriginal cultural heritage places (including cultural landscapes) or other Aboriginal intangible heritage associated with this registration, and briefly explain how the Aboriginal cultural heritage or Aboriginal intangible heritage relates to this registration. The Aboriginal cultural and/or intangible heritage identified in this section may or may not already be registered or be appropriate for registration. For example, a craft practice may be based on research into a cultural object in the Museum Victoria collection, which may also be listed here.
8. Consultation with relevant Traditional Owners
Provide details of consultation undertaken with other Traditional Owner groups who may have an interest in the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered. List who has been consulted and briefly provide basic details about the nature of the consultation (e.g. meeting; email; date; outcomes).
9. Protection and management
Describe what is required to ensure the Aboriginal intangible heritage is appropriately maintained and transmitted. For example, briefly explain how the Aboriginal intangible heritage has been protected and passed on in the past, how it is currently maintained and transmitted to future generations, and the conditions necessary for its protection and transmission into the future.
For instance, if a basket weaving technique relies on the availability of a particular natural resource, describe the accessibility of this resource, or if it is under threat, provide details here and describe the conditions required for the ongoing protection of the resource, and therefore the maintenance of the Aboriginal intangible heritage.
10. Knowledge known only to Traditional Owners
Select ‘yes’ if there is any information regarding the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered which is known exclusively to the Traditional Owners, and which has been left out of this registration. Select ‘no’ if all the information relevant to the Aboriginal intangible heritage is included in the registration and component forms.
If selecting ‘yes’, briefly describe how the omitted information is protected by the applicant or cultural knowledge holders in the community (e.g. known to, maintained and transmitted within the community).
Component forms for the registration of Aboriginal intangible heritage are used to record information specific to the traditional knowledge, cultural expressions or innovations being registered. The six component forms for recording Aboriginal intangible heritage relate to the six ‘categories’ of intangible heritage, are:
- Oral traditions and expressions (including language, songs, and stories)
- Performing arts (vocal and instrumental music, dance, and performance)
- Social practices, ceremony, and festive events
- Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe (including environmental and ecological knowledge)
- Visual arts and crafts (skills and traditional knowledge involved in their production)
- Intellectual creation or innovation based on above (new practices based on interpretations of traditional knowledge)
The component forms request information relevant to the type of Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered. Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered will often relate to more than one ‘category’, in which case multiple component forms may be completed as part of a single registration.
Likewise, there may be more than one version of the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered, and in this case multiple component forms representing the same category may be completed. For example, if two versions of the same story are being registered, told by two different family groups, two separate component forms may be completed as part of a single registration, providing the details and context of each story.
At least one component form must be included with the primary recording form. Instructions for completing component forms are provided below.
Sections common to all component (category) forms
The following provides a guide to sections common to each of the component forms. (Further information, specific to each of the individual component forms is found in the subsequent section).
Provide a title for the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered, of no more than 20 words.
Also known as
This section can be used if the Aboriginal intangible heritage is known by more than one name, or if it is being registered in more than one language.
The description provided in this section should provide enough detail for the Secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet (the Secretary) to determine whether the Aboriginal intangible heritage is able to be included on the VAHR. The Secretary will consider the This section may also be used by communities as a place to record the Aboriginal intangible heritage being registered, for the maintenance and transmission of that Aboriginal intangible heritage into the future. If marked ‘sensitive’, this description will not be shared with anyone other than those managing the register, the Traditional Owners and those recommended by Traditional Owners.
This section concerns the cultural protocols surrounding the management of the information being provided. Include here any details of restrictions on the Aboriginal intangible heritage. For example, if the knowledge or cultural expressions associated with the Aboriginal intangible heritage are restricted to a certain gender, age group or life cycle, details can be recorded here. If you would like to speak with Aboriginal Victoria about specific cultural protocols prior to applying for registration, we encourage you to call us to discuss how information can be managed sensitively and appropriately.
Provide details of how the oral tradition or expression is maintained and transmitted by the community and the conditions required to ensure its transmission into the future
This section records details about the conditions necessary for the maintenance and transmission of the Aboriginal intangible heritage for the benefit of future generations. Alternatively, if the maintenance and transmission of the Aboriginal intangible heritage is under threat, please provide details here. Details provided in this section will not influence whether an application for inclusion on the VAHR is successful or not, however it may indicate that support is required to achieve protection and/or sustainable development of the Aboriginal intangible heritage. If information is the same as that provided in the primary recording form, leave blank or write ‘see primary recording form’.
Cultural knowledge holders
While in some cases the registering party will be the cultural knowledge holder or practitioner of the Aboriginal intangible heritage, in many cases smaller groups, or even individuals will be the most appropriate cultural knowledge holder/practitioner. For example, a particular group of dancers, or a choreographer, might be the most appropriate knowledge holder/practitioner of a dance being registered. Likewise, a small group of women might be cultural knowledge holders/practitioners of a particular social practice which is women’s business. The details of any specific cultural knowledge holders/practitioners should be included in this section. This section can be updated by the Applicant or registering party at any time, to reflect the transmission of knowledge/skills within communities.
Sections specific to categories (components)
Category B: Performing arts (vocal and instrumental music, dance, and performance)
Section 7: Provide details if the performing art is associated with other intangible attributes, or their physical manifestation, such as crafts, social practices, or festivals
Performing arts often rely on a number of expressions of intangible and tangible cultural heritage, which can be recorded here. For example, particular clothing or decoration might be worn to perform a dance, or particular instruments might be used to perform a piece of music. Alternatively, a dance may be performed as part of an annual festival or related to traditional knowledge about seasonal animal or plant use. Other component forms can also be completed if relevant.
Category C: Social practices, ceremony, and festive events
Section 7: Provide details if the social practice, ceremony, or festival is associated with any important event
Use this section to record when the social practice, ceremony or festive event takes place. For example, a ceremony might coincide with a change of season, or a social practice may be associated with a time in a person’s life cycle. This section may also be used to record where the social practice, ceremony or festive event takes place.
Section 8: Provide details if the social practice, ceremony, or festival manifests as, or is associated with, any creation or innovation
Use this section to record associated tangible cultural heritage, for example particular clothing worn, food produced, or cultural materials used during ceremonies.
Category D: Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe (including environmental and ecological knowledge)
Section 3: What does the knowledge or practice relate to?
Select the relevant options from the following:
- Animal or plant use
- Natural resource management
- Religious/spiritual knowledge
- Healing/belief systems
Section 8: Provide details if the knowledge or practice manifests as or is associated with any physical attributes
Is the knowledge or practice concerning nature and/or the universe associated with the production of tools, food or medicine? In this section provide details about how the knowledge or practice manifests. For example, knowledge associated with the properties of a particular gum may result in tools, or a seasonal harvesting practice may be associated with the production of a particular food.
Section 9: Provide details of the physical, spiritual, or medicinal properties of the animal or plant or other natural resource
NB Sections 9 – 12 are specific to traditional knowledge of animal or plant use, and natural resource management.
Use this section to record the unique properties of the natural resource associated with the Aboriginal intangible heritage. For example, the unique property of a medicinal plant might be its numbing effect; the unique properties of plant fibres might be that they are strong, lightweight or adhesive (physical); the unique movements and behaviours of an animal might be associated with spiritual beliefs.
Section 10: Provide details of the known applications of the animal or plant or other natural resource
Record here the various known applications of the natural resource. For example, a plant may be used to reduce pain, and also used in basket making. An animal’s fur may be used to produce clothing, and its sinew used for producing tools.
Section 11: Detail the process or methods used in the preparation or application of the animal or plant or other natural resource
Record here the steps involved in utilising the natural resource, for example, the process of preparing and administering medicine, or the steps involved in natural resource management.
Section 12: Detail the Traditional Owners’ accessibility to the animal or plant or other natural resource
Is the natural resource regionally abundant and easily accessible, or in decline and difficult to obtain? Use this section to record where the natural resource is sourced from and any current or potential barriers to obtaining the natural resource.
Category E: Visual arts and crafts (skills and traditional knowledge involved in their production)
Section 7: Provide details if the skills and knowledge, or their physical manifestation, is associated with other intangible attributes such as music, social practices, or festival events
Use this section to record related Aboriginal intangible heritage. For example, the crafting of clothing may be associated with a social practice during which that clothing is worn.
The crafting of tools may be associated with traditional knowledge regarding plant use. You may wish to complete additional component forms for the associated Aboriginal intangible heritage.
Category F: Intellectual creation or innovation based on above (new practices based on interpretations of traditional knowledge)
Section 7: Detail the intellectual creation or innovation
Use this section to record which aspect(s) of the intellectual creation or innovation is/are new. Record how and why this Aboriginal intangible heritage has evolved.
Section 8: Provide details of the cultural tradition or expression from which the intellectual creation or innovation is derived or on which it is based
Use this section to record any traditional aspects of the intellectual creation or innovation, or the traditional knowledge and/or cultural expressions upon which it is based. For example, the intellectual creation might be a new song based on a traditional story, or a new dance based on traditional performances and social practices. An innovation may be a new cultural use for a medicinal plant using its traditionally known properties.
Reviewed 09 November 2020