The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council met for the first time oná8 October 2006 and was formed officially oná28áMay 2007 when the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic) came into effect.
The Council is a body corporate with perpetual succession, meaning it has a common seal, can sue or be sued in its corporate name, may acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property, as well as do and suffer all acts and things that a body corporate may by law do and suffer.
The Council consists of no more than 11 members appointed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. All members must be Aboriginal with a Chairperson of the Council being appointed from among them. Members may hold office for a maximum of 3 years and may be reappointed subject to the provisions of the Act.
On 3 September 2010, the Council helped develop and welcome the Traditional Owner Settlement Bill 2010 (Vic) that pursues a systemáto achieveáland justice for Traditional Owners in Victoria. This ultimately became theáTraditional Owner Settlement Actá2010 (Vic) which provides for an out-of-court settlement of native title (Department of Justice and Community Safety Victoria).
Functions of the Council
TheáAboriginal Heritage Actá2006 (Vic) (the Act) outlines the functions of the Council as being:
- to advise the Minister in relation to the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria;
- to advise and make recommendations to the Minister on the exercise of his or her powers under the Act;
- to advise the Secretary on measures to establish appropriate standards and guidelines for the payment to registered Aboriginal parties of fees and at the Secretary's request on the exercise of his or her powers under this Act in relation to cultural heritage permits, cultural heritage management plans, and cultural heritage agreements;
- to receive and determine applications for the registration of Aboriginal parties;
- to consider for approval proposed cultural heritage management plans for which the Secretary is the sponsor;
- to develop measures to promote public awareness and understanding of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria; and
- to carry out any other functions conferred on the Council underáthe Act.
Registered Aboriginal Parties
During the Council's first year of operation in 2007, it received 22 applications from Traditional Owner groups seeking status as a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) under the Act.
RAPs are legally recognised as the primary guardians, keepers and knowledge holders of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. Their primary functions include:
- evaluating Cultural Heritage Management Plans;
- assessing Cultural Heritage Permit applications;
- making decisions about Cultural Heritage Agreements;
- providing advice on applications for interim or ongoing Protection Declarations;
- entering into Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Land Management Agreements with public land managers; and
- nominating Aboriginal intangible heritage to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register and managing intangible heritage agreements (Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council).