CEO Update: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021

Published on Tuesday, 20 June 2023 at 8:24:54 AM

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021

WA’s new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 represents a significant step towards achieving equity in the relationship between Aboriginal people, industry, and government.


There has been a bit of scaremongering and alarmist comments surrounding the introduction of the new act, but it is important to believe what you read, not necessarily what you hear. 

What has not changed, is the need to seek approval for activities that may harm Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The following information should give some guidance and a reference point for obtaining relevant and factual information.


Approval won’t be needed for jobs like farmers planting a crop, running livestock, or replacing existing infrastructure, if the work is the same as what has been done before (like-for-like).

Simply put, “Where there is no Aboriginal cultural heritage present, there is no requirement for approval.”


What is the Act?

Landowners may need approval for activities which may harm Aboriginal cultural heritage.


It is illegal to impact Aboriginal cultural heritage without permission. A tiered system explains what to consider before making plans.

It is important to familiarise yourself with the various Guidelines and Factsheets list on the website to know your obligations  

These include:

  • Activity Tiers
  • Management Code
  • Consultation Guidelines
  • Knowledge Guidelines
  • Protected Area
  • State Significance
  • Timeframes
  • Substantially Commenced
  • Management Plan


Who is impacted?

All land users should understand their obligations under the new Act.

Residential properties under 1100sqm are exempt from the Act.

Residential properties over 1100sqm have significant exemptions, including to undertake activities like installing a patio, garage or pool.

People undertaking like-for-like activities – such as farmers working on established paddocks in a way they have been previously, are exempt.


Those looking to impact Aboriginal cultural heritage will need to become familiar with approvals required.


The following map is the up-to-date Map of Aboriginal Heritage sites  


Zoom to your area or follow directions below:


How do I use the map viewer to search for what I need?

  1. You can get started by going to the ‘What do you want to do?’ button at the top of the page.
  2. From here you can search for ‘Registered Sites’ and ‘Other Heritage Information’ by selecting them as filters.
  3. A search box will then appear on the left-hand side to choose how you want to search. This includes by street address, suburb or town.
  4. A pop-up box will appear with disclaimer information about your search. You can select ‘Continue’ once you have read and are happy with this to then load any heritage features.
  5. Information will appear on the left-hand side to let you know if there are registered Aboriginal sites.


Where there is no Aboriginal cultural heritage present, there is no requirement for approval. Simple as that.


In addition to searching the database, you may need to make some risk-based decisions. A Due-Diligence Assessment is suggested for Tier 2 & 3 activities and will assist in reducing risk and help avoid potential litigation.

This may involve completing a survey if one is not available. The Management Code will walk you through those steps required.


It is also important to view identify any Indigenous Protected areas via this site


It’s illegal to impact Aboriginal cultural heritage without authorisation. This is part of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021, in effect from 1 July, 2023.

Communities can continue protecting one of the world’s oldest living cultures by working together with local Aboriginal organisations.


What type of approval do I need?

Find out if your activity is exempt from needing an approval, or what type of approval will be needed.

The type of approval needed is based on the level of your activity on the site, the scale of disturbance and the potential to impact Aboriginal cultural heritage.

If you have a question, please contact the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage on 6551 8002 or email

You can discuss your proposed activity and what you need to do under the Act.

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