The Department is responsible for administering two key pieces of legislation:

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972  (AHA Act) which was introduced in Western Australia in 1972 to protect Aboriginal heritage. The Act recognises Aboriginal peoples' strong relationships to the land, which may go back many thousands of years.

The AHA Act provides automatic protection for all places and objects in Western Australia that are important to Aboriginal people because of connections to their culture. These places and objects are referred to as Aboriginal sites.

The Department maintains a Register of Aboriginal Sites as a record of places and objects of significance to which the Act applies. The presence of an Aboriginal site places restrictions on what can be done to the land. Anyone who wants to use land for research, development or any other cause, must investigate whether there is an Aboriginal heritage site on the land.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is responsible for the administration of the Act. Under the Act it is an offence for anyone to excavate, damage, destroy, conceal or in any way alter an Aboriginal site without the Minister's permission. The Department assists the Minister in the administration of the Act.

The Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 (AAPA Act) established the Aboriginal Lands Trust. The Aboriginal Lands Trust became responsible for the administration of lands previously held by the Native Welfare Department and a number of State Government agencies. There are also lands that remain registered in the name of the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972.  Additionally, as a part of the effective management of the estate, the Aboriginal Lands Trust undertakes strategic land acquisitions.

The Aboriginal Lands Trust provides advice to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on Aboriginal Lands Trust  land issues. The Aboriginal Lands Trust is a significant landholder with responsibility for approximately 27 million hectares or 11 per cent of the State's land mass. This land comprises different tenures including, reserves, leases and freehold properties. A significant proportion of this land comprises reserves that have Management Orders with the Aboriginal Lands Trust (generally having the power to lease), with their purposes mostly being for "the use and benefit of Aboriginal inhabitants".

Section 18 (1) of the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 states that there "shall be established a council, to be known as the Aboriginal Advisory Council, for the purposes of advising the Authority on matters relating to the interests and well-being of persons of Aboriginal descent". The Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 also outlines that such a council shall consist of Aboriginal people. This council is now know as the Western Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council (WAAAC).

It is also governed by a number of pieces of legislation, particularly the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 came into effect on 1 July 2003. The Act facilitates the disclosure of public interest information by providing protection for those who make disclosures and those who are the subject of disclosures.
A public interest disclosure is made when a person discloses to a proper authority information that tends to show past, present or proposed future improper conduct by a public body in the exercise of public functions.  In order to be a disclosure to which the Act applies, a disclosure must be:

  • made by an informant who believes on reasonable grounds that the information is or may be true;
  • a disclosure of public interest information; and
  • made to the appropriate proper authority.

The Act deals with disclosures made by anyone (not just Governance employees) but the information must be specific to the following areas:

  • Improper conduct
  • Irregular or unauthorised use of public resources
  • An offence under State law, including corruption
  • Substantial unauthorised or irregular use of, or substantial mismanagement of, public resources
  • Administration matter(s)
  • Conduct involving a substantial and specific risk of injury to public health, prejudice to public safety or harm to the environment

If your information falls outside of the above areas then you may still be able to make a complaint to a public authority, but this will not be a public interest disclosure under the Act.

Before making a disclosure it is important that you are aware of the rights and responsibilities imposed on informants and others under the Act. These are:

  1. it is an offence to make a disclosure if you know, or are reckless about, it being false and misleading.
  2. with some exceptions, the public authority will investigate your information and in doing so you will be expected to cooperate; and
  3. you will have to keep your information confidential – or you may lose protection under the Act and may commit an offence under the Act

The Act only confers protection where a disclosure is made to an appropriate proper authority.  The identity of the appropriate proper authority will vary according to the kind of information to be disclosed.

The department’s PID Officers are responsible for receiving disclosures of public interest information relating to matters falling within the sphere of responsibility of the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.

To contact a PID Officer for the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, please call 6551 8002 (between 8:30am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday) and ask to speak to a PID Officer.

Further information about the legislation and how to make a disclosure is available from the Public Sector Commission website or contact the Public Sector Commission's Advisory line on 1800 676 607 (metro and country callers).