Applying for a Permit to Excavate an Aboriginal Site: What You Need to Know

20 March 2018
 Categories: , Blog


The aboriginal people have lived in Australia for many thousands of years. During this time, many cultural artefacts were created. When European settlers first arrived, they did not view aboriginal culture as important, and so a large number of artefacts were damaged or lost. In the latter half of the 20th century, the Australian government took steps to protect aboriginal cultural artefacts from damage and introduced the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. The Act created legal protections for aboriginal sites and forbade unauthorised movement or removal of objects from certain locations of interest. One requirement of the Act is that anyone wishing to excavate an aboriginal site must apply for a permit to do so. Below is a guide to everything you need to know about applying for a permit.

Carrying out a risk assessment

Before you can apply for a permit, you must carry out a risk assessment which will calculate the potential harm which could be caused by your archaeological dig and the steps you will take to mitigate these risks. While causing deliberate harm to aboriginal objects is an offence, indirect harm is permitted if it is part of an archaeological dig which has been granted a permit. An archaeological consultant will be able to assist you in carrying out a risk assessment and gathering the evidence you need in order to complete the application for a permit.

Applying for a permit

In order to increase the chance that your application will be granted, it is essential that you supply as much information as possible about your proposed dig. You should include details of precisely where you will be riffing trenches, the items you are hoping to excavate, the cultural or scientific value of the project, and details of the professionals who will be working on site. You may also wish to include photographs of the location and maps of the proposed trenches. The application form can only be completed by the person who has overall responsibility for the archaeological dig or by a person who represents a legal entity such as a company or corporation.

If you would like further advice about applying for a permit which will give you permission to conduct an archaeological dig on aboriginal land, you should contact an aboriginal archaeology consultant who specialises in this area. The consultant will be happy to look over your project proposal before offering further help and assistance.