ACT Heritage Council

Legislative framework and functions

The ACT Heritage Council (the Council) is established under the Heritage Act 2004 and has the following functions:

  • to identify, assess, conserve and promote places and objects
  • to encourage the registration of heritage places and objects
  • to work within the land planning and development system to achieve appropriate conservation of the ACT’s natural and cultural heritage places and objects, including Aboriginal places and objects
  • to advise the Minister about issues affecting the management and promotion of heritage
  • to encourage and assist in appropriate management of heritage places and objects
  • to encourage public interest in, and understanding of, issues relevant to the conservation of heritage places and objects
  • to encourage and provide public education about heritage places and objects
  • to assist in the promotion of tourism in relation to heritage places and objects
  • to keep adequate records, and encourage others to keep adequate records, in relation to heritage places and objects.

Membership

In addition to two permanent ex-officio members – the Chief Planning Executive and the Conservator of Flora and Fauna – a maximum of nine expert members are appointed to the Council by the Minister. Three membership appointments expired in May and June 2013; two members were reappointed, and a new member appointed for periods of 12 months each.

Membership of the ACT Heritage Council as at 30 June 2013 was:

  • Mr Duncan Marshall (Chair)
  • Dr Dianne Firth (Deputy Chair)
  • Dr Michael Pearson
  • Dr Lenore Coltheart
  • Mr John Kemister
  • Mr John Miller
  • Dr Warren Nicholls
  • Mrs Pamela O'Neil
  • Ms Sharon Payne

Meetings

Seven Council meetings were held during the year. Apart from fulfilling legislative requirements in relation to heritage registrations and providing advice on development applications (DA) referred to it by the planning and land authority, the Council also advised the Minister generally on heritage issues in the ACT.

Taskforces

During 2012–13, the taskforce system used by the Council continued to provide opportunities for Council members to participate in a number of projects. Papers were also circulated for members to consider out of session as part of the means by which the Council conducts its business. Twenty-two task force meetings were held during the year covering work in a range of heritage-related areas:

Development applications taskforce

This taskforce considered DAs referred to it by the planning and land authority. The taskforce held ten meetings. Membership of this taskforce comprises Mr Marshall, Dr Pearson, Dr Firth and Mr Miller.

Register assessment taskforce

The register assessment taskforce continued its work of assessing nominations to the ACT Heritage Register. Membership consisted of Mr Marshall, Dr Pearson, Dr Firth, Dr Coltheart, Dr Nicholls and Ms O’Neil. The taskforce met six times during the year.

Aboriginal heritage taskforce

Membership of the Aboriginal heritage taskforce included Dr Pearson, Mrs Brown and Dr Nicholls. This taskforce met twice during the year.

Conservation management plan taskforce

This taskforce considers conservation management plans submitted to the Council for endorsement. The taskforce met four times. It consists of Mr Marshall, Dr Coltheart and Dr Firth.

Promotion of heritage awareness

The ACT Heritage Council supported a diverse range of activities aimed at promoting and celebrating the ACT's heritage. The largest of these was the 2013 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival. Held from 13-28 April 2013, the heritage celebrations continued to serve as an important vehicle for heritage promotion, awareness and education. The theme for the 2013 Heritage Festival was 'Milestones' and there were 27 new event organisers. The program included 125 events and involved 75 groups and individuals from the private, government and community sectors. Council members attended various openings and launches, with the Chairman launching Tuggeranong Treasures on 16 April 2013. Dr Coltheart was an organiser of ‘Heritage Happenings at Albert Hall’ on 22 April 2013.

‘Down the Garden Path’ was a fundraising event for the P&C of the heritage registered Ainslie Primary School, held for the second year. The school catchment area of Reid was featured, with people able to visit different buildings and gardens. Council members Firth, Coltheart, Nicholls and Marshall gave talks at various spots along the route highlighting the tree planting, history of Reid, Reid Preschool and St John’s Church.

Intergovernmental relations

The Council Secretary attended the Heritage Officials of Australia and New Zealand meeting in Sydney in August 2012. The Council Secretary and Chair participated in the Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand (HCOANZ) Forum in Canberra in
February 2013. The role of the HCOANZ is to provide for the exchange of information across jurisdictions (Australia and New Zealand) and the sharing of knowledge, expertise and experiences.

Conserving Aboriginal heritage

The Council considered conservation works for a number of Aboriginal sites.

Detailed archaeological investigations involving the Representative Aboriginal Organisations (RAOs) were completed by BIOSIS Research during the reporting period, ascertaining the extent and density of a large cache of Aboriginal artefacts named ‘Kenny 7’ (K7). A conservation management plan outlining conservation recommendations for K7 was approved by the Council in 2012. The Council has provided advice to the Land Development Agency to ensure K7 is fenced for protection during construction.

Grinding Grooves site MV18 consists of a set of grinding grooves located on a sandstone outcrop in the Molonglo Stage 2 development footprint. The Council endorsed the final conservation management plan for the site, which establishes the requirement for an interpretation plan to be drafted by the proponent in consultation with the RAOs. The Land Development Agency recruited Stepwise Heritage and Tourism to facilitate a workshop with the RAOs in order to devise culturally appropriate conservation and interpretation measures. The Council has endorsed the interpretation plan arising from this workshop.

A geological assessment has also been completed in the vicinity of the site, determining the extent of the sandstone outcrop and recommending appropriate conservation actions. Consultation between the developer and RAOs will be ongoing to ensure the implementation of clear procedures for long term conservation and management.

Return to Country

All artefacts collected from the Murrumbidgee to Googong Water Transfer Project were reburied in the Murrumbidgee River Corridor in 2012 during a Return to Country event approved by the Council, involving RAOs, Parks and City Services and Bulk Water Alliance. This was the first Aboriginal repatriation of stone artefacts to occur under the Heritage Act 2004. The objects were reburied in a location managed by PCS, and a detailed recording of the new deposit lodged within the Heritage Unit.

Consultation has occurred throughout the reporting period between the developers of Forde North, the Council, the Heritage Unit, the archaeological consultants and the RAOs regarding impacts to Site BPAD1. The site, which contains the highest concentration of Aboriginal artefacts yet found in the ACT, was to be impacted by the installation of water quality control ponds. Since the importance of this site was identified, the ponds have been redesigned to protect the highest concentrations of artefacts. In September 2012, all artefacts previously collected from the site were reburied in direct contact with soil. This occurred with the approval of the Council, in accordance with cultural preferences of the Aboriginal community.

Heritage Council policies

The Council has engaged four heritage consultants to draft four policies concerning the conduct of cultural heritage reporting, repatriation of Aboriginal artefacts, consultation with RAOs, and methodological requirements for archaeological investigations in the ACT.

1. Consulting with Representative Aboriginal Organisations

The Heritage Act 2004 formally recognises RAOs, which also provide input into cultural heritage investigative processes.

This policy will formalise requirements and protocols surrounding RAO consultation on heritage matters in circumstances which are not clearly outlined under the Act. It will also provide clarity for RAOs, heritage consultants, government agencies, and developers with regard to the consultation process.

2. Return to Country: Repatriation of Aboriginal Artefacts

It is the preference of the RAOs that Aboriginal cultural material remain or be ‘returned to country,’ in direct contact with soil. However, in the absence of a Return to Country protocol, it is informal practice for Aboriginal cultural material salvaged during archaeological excavations to be placed with the Heritage Unit (the Unit) for temporary keeping.

This policy will address the cultural preference for Aboriginal material to be returned to country, in addition to s. 115 of the Act that stipulates the requirement for a suitable repository.

3. Reporting and Structural Requirements for Cultural Heritage in the ACT

It is an offence under s. 75 of the Act to damage an Aboriginal place or object other than where there are exceptions permitted as detailed in s. 76. One of these exceptions includes the approval by the Council of a conservation management plan. These plans form part of the body of heritage literature submitted to the Council for approval as part of cultural heritage due diligence studies undertaken ahead of development.

This policy will address the structural and content requirements of conservation management plans, and provide clarity to consultants and RAOs surrounding the Council approvals process.

4. Methodological Review of Sub-Surface Testing and Excavations in the ACT

This policy will entail a review of methodologies used in archaeological investigations over the past three years, and will clearly establish a defined rationale for selection of appropriate methodologies for projects in the ACT.

The recommendations will be considered in the drafting of a policy for conducting Aboriginal and historic heritage investigations. The inclusion of the report recommendations in the future policy will help streamline the approval of methodologies and assist Council decisions to be more transparent and more comparable.

Heritage Register

Heritage registration strategy

The Council continued its work in processing the backlog of approximately 190 historic places and objects nominated to the Heritage Register over many years. During 2012–13:

  • 5 nominations were made to the ACT Heritage Register; all were accepted by the Council
  • 51 decisions were made on provisional registration, including decisions not to provisionally register
  • 10 decisions were made on full registration, including decisions not to register.
  • 56 nominations have been identified as probable duplications.

Nominations graph

Appeals in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The Council attended three hearings in ACAT on appealed registration decisions.

In 2012–13, a registration decision for St Patrick’s Church, Braddon was appealed. The matter was heard 6-10 May 2013 and 15-16 July 2013. A decision is yet to be handed down by the Tribunal.

In 2012–13, an application to review the registration decision to register the ‘Expansion’ Mosaic Mural Wall, Braddon, as a ‘place’ was submitted by the proprietor of the property, who argued the Mural should be listed as an ‘object’. It was common ground that the Mural has heritage significance. ACAT heard the matter 13-14 June 2013. On 5 July 2013 the Tribunal found the decision to register the Mural as a ‘place’ should be set aside and replaced with a decision to register it as an ‘object’.

In 2012–13, a registration decision for the Yarralumla Brickworks Railway Remnants, Yarralumla was appealed. The matter is yet to be heard.

Administrative support

The Heritage Unit continued to provide administrative support for the Council during 2012–13.

Remuneration

ACT Heritage Council members are entitled to remuneration as determined by the ACT Remuneration Tribunal. Remuneration paid to Council members during the year to 1 June 2013 totaled $36,298.

Further information can be obtained from:

Jennifer O'Connell
Acting Manager, Heritage Unit
Telephone: 02 6207 2179
Email: jennifer.oconnell@act.gov.au
Website: www.environment.act.gov.au/heritage