Frequently Asked Questions

What is a sacred site?

A place that is the subject of a mythological story, song or belief, may be considered to be a 'sacred site' to Aboriginal people. A common feature of traditional Aboriginal life in most parts of Australia is mythology concerning the travels of totemic mystical beings, either animal or human in form, which created the landscape across which they travelled and which left spiritual essences in those places.

Not all sacred sites will meet the criteria set out in the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (AHA). For a sacred site to be registered under the AHA, the site must be both 'sacred and of importance and special significance to persons of Aboriginal descent'. A site of ordinary significance may not meet the statutory threshold. It is also necessary to consider the extent of the boundaries of a sacred site to determine if the whole of a place is sacred or whether particular places forming part of the mythology are more likely to hold greater significance to Aboriginal people.

How can a mythological site be 'disturbed'?

For a person to be convicted of an offence under section 17(a) AHA, that person must physically alter or damage (excavate, destroy or conceal) an Aboriginal site, including a mythological site. It is not sufficient that the person has altered or damaged the intangible or spiritual qualities of an Aboriginal site.

What happens if the ACMC is of the opinion that Aboriginal heritage place LSC11 is a mythological sacred site?

If LSC11 is registered as a sacred site, most land use will continue as it does today in Broome, without any change. This means that in most cases, activities in developed areas will not require consent under the AHA, including residential dwellings and built up areas of Broome with existing commercial and industrial developments.

In the case of new developments on previously uncleared land, any significant physical alteration to the environment may require approvals under the AHA. In this instance, it is advised that a land owner makes contact with the Department before commencing any development. It is also recommended that land owners familiarise themselves with the Due Diligence Guidelines (guidelines) which can be found on the website at www.dplh.wa.gov.au. The guidelines can assist land owners in determining when an approval is required.

What happens if the ACMC is of the opinion that Aboriginal heritage place LSC11 is not a site?

LSC11 is currently assessed as 'not a site'. There will be no change to how development occurs within Broome should the ACMC determine that LSC11 is not a site. There are currently 61 registered Aboriginal sites within the boundary of LSC11, and land owners are required to comply with the provisions of the AHA where there are Aboriginal sites.