Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management
The Cultural Heritage Unit (CHU) was established as a result of the Tweed Shire Council Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Mapping Project/Plan (ACHMP). The ACHMP was adopted by Tweed Shire Council in July 2018 and requires proponents to obtain an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (ACH) assessment from the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council (Tweed Byron LALC) as part of the Council’s Development Application (DA) process. The CHU provides proponents with a written ACH assessment report which is then submitted to the Tweed Shire Council as part of their proposal. On occasion, monitoring of ACH in sensitive areas may be required and the CHU provides these services also.*
Tweed Byron LALC played a pivotal role in the creation and completion of the ACHMP. Tweed Byron LALC worked alongside the Tweed Shire Council Aboriginal Advisory Committee as well as cultural knowledge holders of the local Aboriginal community. We believe that by cooperatively combining our insights, knowledge and aspirations we have together developed a Plan that may well set a new benchmark for the management of ACH.
Tweed Byron LALC has a cultural responsibility to protect culture and heritage within its boundary. The NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, provides the legislative framework for Tweed Byron LALC to carry out its cultural obligations and reads:
- Take action to protect the culture and heritage of Aboriginal persons in the Council’s area, subject to any other law; and
- Promote awareness in the community of the culture and heritage of Aboriginal persons in the Council’s area.
With regard to these roles and responsibilities, the Tweed Byron LALC recognises the importance of the ACHMP as a local government policy and procedural document that assists it in meeting these cultural and statutory obligations. Tweed Byron LALC undertake to work cooperatively with Tweed Shire Council to meet all the ACHMP objectives.
The Tweed Aboriginal community of today includes descendant custodians of the land as well as people from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. The Tweed Byron LALC acknowledges Aboriginal cultural diversity in many forms; including people with different language backgrounds, different names or group identities, different systems of belief, and a special cultural attachment to ‘Country’. The Tweed Byron LALC is committed to represent the interests of the Aboriginal community where those interests are in accord with local Aboriginal knowledge and practices, and are within established local cultural protocols.
Cultural knowledge included in the ACHMP has been freely contributed for the benefit of the whole Tweed community. Tweed Byron LALC will undertake to ensure that this information is used in a respectful and appropriate way. Within the broader framework of NSW cultural heritage legislation, the Tweed Byron LALC will continue to work alongside Tweed Shire Council and the Office of Environment and Heritage, to obtain improved awareness and management outcomes for Aboriginal cultural heritage. Furthermore, Tweed Byron LALC will support those initiatives that better protect and conserve Aboriginal heritage sites and places.
The Tweed Byron LALC supports the implementation and use of this ACHMP as an appropriate means to recognise and respond to issues of cultural heritage within the Tweed Local Government Area.
Tweed Aboriginal mapping layers have always existed and the Aboriginal community has throughout time ‘documented’ or captured those layers with lore, stories, song and dance, bark paintings, body art, cave/rock paintings and sand art etc. The ‘written’ mapping, and the eventual digitised mapping, of ACH is the modern westernised system of capturing and documenting what has always been in existence; that is, the key elements referred to in the ACHMP:
What these key elements do is articulate the pre-existence of these ancient mapping layers and documents them in a way that non-Aboriginal people can understand. Furthermore, they also inform the westernised line of scientific enquiry which has supported what we Gooris have always spoken of.
There are many non-Aboriginal people who have earned tens, even hundreds of thousands, of dollars researching, documenting and applying their knowledge of ACH that they have acquired freely from authentic knowledge holders. Non-Aboriginal people who have documented Aboriginal communities and their existence over time have collated, not created, resources of cultural knowledge. Some of these people have collated the information to the benefit of the Aboriginal community, however some have not. The CHU is now the vehicle for the Tweed Byron LALC/Aboriginal Community to take control of the provision of ACH services as the Bundjalung Mapping Project (Tweed Shire), its evolution into modern mapping layers and ultimately the ACHMP could never have been achieved without the Aboriginal community’s trust, knowledge or sanction.
Understanding, properly valuing, protecting and preserving ACH requires first and foremost, knowledge and respect. It also needs people ‘on Country’. There are aspects of ACH which are intangible such as ancient and spiritual customs, beliefs, stories, feelings and sensibilities; and other aspects that are physical such as objects and places, features of the landscape and the environment. Only Aboriginal people, and often only those entrusted with the knowledge, can inform this process. In the absence of this knowledge, any effort to preserve ACH cannot succeed and although there may arise challenges in managing potentially conflicting land uses and cultural values, these can also become a powerfully positive process for all concerned.
*Tweed Byron LALC also provides ACH assessment services to parts of the Byron and Lismore Shire Local Government Areas. Please contact the CHU to enquire if your property is within the Tweed Byron LALC’s boundary.
CHU PH Number: 07 5536 1926
Council Statement of Acknowledgement
- Acknowledges the Tweed Aboriginal communities long standing campaign and dedication to ensuring a solid framework and procedures are put in place within Council, regarding Aboriginal culture and heritage within the Tweed Shire.
- Acknowledges the commitment, time, knowledge and expertise provided by the Tweed Shire Council Aboriginal Advisory Committee, members of the Aboriginal community, Tweed Shire Council staff and Councillors who have contributed to the ACHMP.
- Acknowledges that cultural information included in the ACHMP has been willingly contributed by the local Tweed Aboriginal community, for the benefit of the whole Tweed community and the Tweed Byron LALC seek to ensure that this information is used in a respectful and appropriate way.
- Will recognise the importance of the ACHMP as a local government policy and procedural document that assists us in meeting our cultural and statutory obligations and we make a strong commitment to work cooperatively with Tweed Shire Council to meet all the ACHMP objectives.
- Will commit to represent the interests of the broader Aboriginal community where those interests are in accord with our local knowledge and practices, and are accepted as established local cultural protocols.
- Will support the implementation and use of this ACHMP as an appropriate means to recognise and respond to issues of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the Tweed Shire.
“We both want to say how much we benefitted from the visit by Warren and you. It was so much more than simply a surface search of any items that might be lying on the land. It was quite moving to learn that there was so much more history to this land than we had expected. We greatly appreciated how Warren and you took the time to explain how this particular lot, and the country around it, had and still holds so much value to those who have come before us, over such a long time. We are honoured to be the current custodians of this special place. It puts a new dimension on occupying the lot, seeing it not just as a piece of land with a view and a house site that we may use for a time, but a place that has an essential spiritual importance to us and others that will continue long after we leave it.
Thank you for the way in which you both carried out the assessment, and the effort that you put into it. We hope that other people who have the same assessment gain as much from it as we did.
We wish you well in continuing to carry out such an important task.”Property owners – new home building applicants – Koala Beach
“Thanks so much Maurice! Was fantastic to meet you guys. I’m looking forward to more hairy man discussions with Warren in the future! We all appreciate the timely execution of the walk through and returned approval letter.”A Film Locations Manager and Producer
“Thank you Maurice. The report is an informative read, especially the history. I appreciate your time on this.”Business Manager, Byron Bay
“Dear Maurice and Warren, Thanks again for your time to meet with us. I can certainly say I got a lot out of meeting with you and I appreciate very much the advice you all gave. “Telstra Compliance Analyst
“I was sceptical at first but have come to understand the necessity of the inspection, the report and then the attendance on site at the time of the dig. I thought the report was excellent and contained really good info. At the time of the visit the attendees from TBLALC showed great respect for being on the property and their reason for being here. We were and are comfortable having you on the property. We believe you are providing a good and responsible service and we as owners fully respect the history and the process.”Property owner – Broken Head – in ground pool construction
“I have had several occasions to work with TBLALC’s Cultural Heritage Uniton both field surveys and excavation programs. TBLALC has never failed to provide a Field Officer when requested, and my experience on these occasions has been very positive. Field officers have always been on time, and have come prepared and familiar with what the project activities will involve. Field officers have always been courteous, and happy to actively engage in and discuss projects. Their knowledge of local Aboriginal sites, places and history is sound which assists greatly in the preparation of our reports and appropriate management recommendations to advise clients. The Cultural Heritage Unit has provided us with timely, thorough reports on projects, and feedback on reports that we have supplied for comment. I look forward to working with the Land Council in the future.”Professional archaeologist
“I would be pleased to offer some feedback on our dealings with the Cultural Heritage Unit (CHU). We definitely fell into the ‘cautious category’ when it came to understanding our rights and obligations with regard Aboriginal sites of cultural significance. We elected to pay for our own site report. We had no specific reason to request the report other than to ensure if there were sites of significance, we could actively manage their heritage.
We felt comfortable from the moment Maurice and Warren arrived on our property. They approached the site inspection with passion, humility and enthusiasm. Prior to commencing the inspection, they sat down with us and explained the entire process clearly and thoroughly. This openness was a positive step to ensuring the inspection was successful for all parties. When the inspection commenced, they were again thoughtful and respectful, which we appreciated. Perhaps the most beneficial part of the entire process was the verbal transfer of information. We were keen to understand more about the heritage of our property and surroundings and it was certainly forthcoming. As an end user of these services, we are sure that the key is the proactive engagement that focusses on the positives of this land’s shared heritage. It is going to take time, but little by little we are sure it will be successful.
The site inspection report was timely and very informative. Everything mentioned in the report was discussed with us either before or immediately after the inspection and the CHU was available to discuss any concerns after publication. We can ask for no more than that, so thank you!
Overall the experience was a positive exercise. We have subsequently had Uncle Des Williams, a Bundjalung Elder, on our property and we are awaiting a visit from some local Aboriginal women. It is because of the positive environment created by the CHU that these types of engagements are able to take place. If we had felt threatened or intimidated in any way, we certainly would not have made subsequent guests welcome. So well done and thank you for continuing your engagement with us.”Rural property owner – Crystal Creek
“I would like to commend the Cultural Heritage Unit for its professional approach to visiting and reporting at my property in what I can imagine at times is a very difficult role. Like most other parts of the planning process a site evaluation can be a scary prospect particularly when it comes to the unknown. On site I spent most of my time with Warren and for some hours we wandered over the land looking for both tangible and feeling for intangible evidence of prior Aboriginal habitation. We found no tangible evidence but Warren felt intangible evidence in a couple of places. It’s not a world I’m familiar with but I understood enough to say I believed Warren when he said that he felt the presence of the spirit of previous Aboriginal people. My feeling was that Warren was authentic and was truthfully reporting his experience. The visit and report was very useful as I now recognise that Aboriginal people probably were once involved with the land I now own. This knowledge informs my future plans for the land. I am now aware of an Aboriginal history in the region and I am most curious to know more. I am prepared to be more involved with other landowners who have an interest in Aboriginal history. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.”Rural property owner – Mullumbimby
“Happy to provide some feedback.
I have found the cultural heritage unit to be helpful and informative. The site meeting, investigation and report process has certainly provided some insight into the history of Aboriginal Cultural heritage in the Tweed. It has certainly broadened my knowledge.
Both Maurice and Warren have been professional, understanding and informative.
Some of my clients have initially been very cautious and anxious about the Aboriginal cultural investigations on their land but when they are given explanations on the process and importance of the investigation and they are included in that process they certainly seem more reassured. I still have some that feel that this is just another hurdle to get over and time waster but most appreciate and understand the importance of Aboriginal Cultural heritage.
From my point of view as a Town Planner for over 20 years I have found that the Aboriginal Cultural heritage management plan and the mapping that has been adopted by Tweed Council to finally provide some useful direction and information on Aboriginal history in the Tweed. Previously Aboriginal Cultural heritage had no real consideration or trigger mechanisms. Hopefully what the TBLALC and the Tweed Council have done will also be developed into the other Shire Council’s and soon be state wide.”Professional town planner
“…a glowing review, by the way.”Local Landcare group
“Could you please Thank Warren and Maurice for their help.”Property owner / suburban block in Pottsville – proposed house extension
Thank you Maurice. I feel privileged to learn more on the value and the importance of the area.Environmental Consultant
Thank you for your effort and reports. We treat cultural heritage with equal value and importance as environmental and social, and so appreciate the Council’s input now and throughout our time on location. I look forward to seeing you soon, filming in Country.Film Location Manager
The bush regenerator contractors and myself were very appreciative of the site induction – it was very valuable and worthwhileTweed Byron Koala Connections Project Officer
That was a terrific experience for me.
I haven’t had the opportunity to experience my own “back-yard” so-to-speak although I’ve been here for 15 years.
Totally great having Clive to join us and to help out with knowledge and logistics.
Such an inspiring and unique opportunity.
Thanks again and looking forward to notes/maps.Tourism Officer
Just wanted to touch base again with you and say how much I appreciated you and Warren visiting the property. We learned a lot from you both and it was wonderful to share some of the different parts of it with you. It was also quite humbling to encounter the cultural artefacts up on the ridge line and have that increased appreciation for how “lived in” the land has always been.
Please thank Warren for sharing his insights into these different cultural sensibilities.Rural Property Owner – Doon Doon
Thanks for chatting this afternoon – very informative and I always appreciate your approach.NSW Government Senior Project Officer
Thank you for delivering the session to our staff. So far the feedback has been great.Shire Council Learning and Development Officer
Maurice, the induction was excellent thank you, exactly what I was after for the crew and the project.Senior Project Officer, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Hi Maurice, thanks again for your valuable insight into the indigenous significance of the area for our architecture students on Thursday, it was really great!Griffith University – Lecturer