About the Department

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs leads action to improve life opportunities for Aboriginal Western Australians.


The Department of Aboriginal Affairs leads action to improve life opportunities for Aboriginal Western Australians. To facilitate this, we provide a range of services to Government and the wider community, including:

Advice and policy development
Under the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972, (AAPA Act) 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.

Guide and support the Aboriginal Affairs Coordinating Committee (AACC)
The AACC is the main coordinating body for Aboriginal affairs, programs, services and policies. The AACC and its member agencies form a key support role to the Aboriginal Affairs Cabinet Sub-Committee (AACSC) through the provision of high-level strategic policy development and advice. 

Manage the Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT)
The ALT provides advice to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on ALT land issues. The ALT is a significant landholder with responsibility for approximately 24 million hectares or 10% of the State's land mass. This land comprises different tenures including, reserves, leases and freehold properties. Its primary function is to acquire and hold land and to use and manage that land for the benefit of Aboriginal people in accordance with their wishes.

Protect Aboriginal heritage
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.

Manage the Section 18 process
As part of the State's project approvals system, the Department works with developers to ensure that Aboriginal heritage and engagement with Aboriginal people is built into development planning processes wherever required. This includes when impact to a site cannot be avoided, and a Section 18 consent is required.

Provide access to heritage information
Access to information that the Department holds in relation to registered Aboriginal Sites and other heritage places is made available via the Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System (AHIS) which is an internet based search tool.

Drive reform
The Department acts to drive reform in Aboriginal Affairs when required. This includes involvement in the Regional Services Reform process and the development of the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014. 

Foster economic participation
The Economic Development Branch exists to enhance opportunities for Aboriginal people to maximise their potential and to increase their social and economic well-being by participating more fully in the State’s economy. The Branch assists Aboriginal people and Aboriginal businesses by facilitating and brokering partnerships, undertaking research and project modelling, providing advice and awareness of current and emerging opportunities and promoting and advocating Aboriginal economic participation and achievement. 

Manage land reform and drives divestment
The Department leads the development of strategic policy initiatives that support effective management of the Aboriginal Lands Trust estate and contributes to improved utilisation of land to achieve social and economic outcomes for Aboriginal people. This includes facilitating the transfer of Aboriginal Lands Trust land to Aboriginal people.

Provide grants and sponsorship
The Community Grants and Sponsorships Program allocates funding to support projects and new initiatives that will ensure better outcomes for Aboriginal people in Western Australia.

Encourage reconciliation
PALS, a Department initiative, encourages young Western Australian school students to develop projects that promote reconciliation in their local community. In 2015, 367 schools from across the State are coordinating 422 PALS projects. The Department also coordinates the Reconciliation Week banner program that allows organisations to publicly display their commitment to reconciliation.

DAA e-news; connecting our community
The Department releases a monthly electronic newsletter that is designed to inform Government, Aboriginal organisations, not-for-profit organisations, corporates and  the Aboriginal community on issues of importance in Aboriginal Affairs. It also connects them with opportunities, advice and activities that is on offer from a range of organisations.

Preserve our unique Aboriginal history
The Aboriginal History Research Unit (AHRU) manages access to Western Australian State archives and some privately owned records that are under the jurisdiction of the Department. Access to these records helps AHRU to undertake detailed Aboriginal family history research and provides valuable genealogical, historical information and advice in response to applications received from Aboriginal people, State Government departments and the wider non-Aboriginal community. 

Support Aboriginal Community Patrols
Aboriginal Community Patrols provide street-level interventions to assist people at-risk of harm. Patrols are a culturally sensitive service targeted at reducing contact between Aboriginal people and the criminal justice and health systems by assisting people from situations of potential harm, taking them to a safer place and linking them to support services. The Patrols are operated in 14 locations across the State. Funding arrangements will be transitioned in 2015/16. 

Provide Entry Permits for access to Aboriginal Land
An entry permit is required to enter a number of the reserves administered by the Aboriginal Lands Trust. The permit system is designed to help protect the privacy of Aboriginal communities, preserve Aboriginal heritage and culture, safeguard the natural environment and to promote visitor safety. 

Support the Western Australian Aboriginal Advisory Committee (WAAAC)
The Department provides administrative support to the WAAAC, established for the purposes of advising the Minister on matters relating to the interests and well-being of persons of Aboriginal descent. 

Are an employer of choice
More than 25% of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs staff are Aboriginal. The Department provides many flexible working options and has family-friendly policies which include part-time employment, purchased leave, deferred salary scheme and flexible working hours. 

To find out more about our work, read the Strategic Framework 2016-16 (366KB).