The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is a Western Australian State Government agency established pursuant to the Public Sector Management Act 1994.
In 1995, when the Department was created, it brought together the Department of Aboriginal Sites, the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority and a specialist land office in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Today, the Department’s role still reflects the work of these three bodies.
Under the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972, the Department is responsible for advising Government on the adequacy, implementation and coordination of services to Aboriginal people in Western Australia. It leads policy development on key issues affecting the lives of Aboriginal Western Australians and across-Government strategies to improve program planning and coordination. It engages with the Aboriginal community to ensure Aboriginal people play a key role in policy development. The Department’s seven regional offices are the front line of this community collaboration process.
Additionally, under the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972, the Department supports the work of the Aboriginal Lands Trust, a body comprising Aboriginal people, that holds about 11 per cent of the State in trust for Aboriginal Western Australians. As well as its ongoing responsibility to return the land to Aboriginal people and groups, the Aboriginal Lands Trust manages the physical and built environment of the estate, which is home to more than 15,000 Aboriginal Western Australians.
Under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, the Department works with Aboriginal people to protect and manage places of significance. The Department also provides advice to the public and private sectors and the community about Aboriginal heritage management and maintains a Register of Aboriginal Sites. It also assists Aboriginal families and native title parties to access information that may assist them in reuniting families or demonstrating their connections to country.
As part of the State’s project approvals system, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs works with developers to ensure that Aboriginal heritage and engagement with Aboriginal people is built into development planning processes wherever required. The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee provides advice to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the management of sites of significance in the development process.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs consists of five directorates:
- Land, Heritage and Culture;
- Regional Outcomes;
- Policy and Reform; and
- Corporate Services.