Councils can improve planning and service delivery to Aboriginal communities by having a better understanding of important Aboriginal heritage places within the local council area. The key tool for this is an Aboriginal Heritage Assessment, which identifies and recognises Aboriginal heritage values within a local government area. The valuables may be tangible (physical items such as rock art, stone tools or middens) or intangible (areas without physical evidence but with particular meaning for the Aboriginal community, such as a ridgeline mentioned in a song to guide people through an area as they travelled to a ceremony).
Aboriginal heritage assessments are an opportunity for councils and local Aboriginal people to build and maintain positive working relationships. Involving Aboriginal people collaboratively in identifying and mapping Aboriginal heritage values can inform planning for protecting and celebrating the unique Aboriginal cultural heritage values of the area, as well as assist council’s decision-making on the development and location of services and infrastructure.
When formulating a Local Environmental Plan, councils should proactively consult Aboriginal communities of the area, and consider the question: “How can Aboriginal cultural heritage be protected and celebrated, and Aboriginal people’s cultural connections and wellbeing be supported now and into the future?”