Cultural Heritage Reform

The Alliance is working to strengthen and modernise cultural heritage laws and to create industry reforms to ensure Indigenous Cultural Heritage is valued and protected for the future.

The laws governing cultural heritage protection are not working for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The federal, state and territory laws governing cultural heritage in Australia do not meet the standards or expectations of First Nations people, everyday Australians or the international community.

The relevant laws across the country are currently more focused on regulating the destruction of First Nations cultural heritage than protecting or celebrating it.

First Nations peoples are the right people to make decisions about their own heritage.  The Alliance is working for legislative reforms that entrench First Nations Peoples as key decision-makers and prioritise the protection of cultural heritage.


The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance and the Australian Government have formed a partnership to improve First Nations cultural heritage protections.

The updated and renewed partnership agreement was signed on 24 November 2022 by Minister Plibersek and the Alliance and commits both parties to a co-design process to reform cultural heritage protection.

The immediate priority of the partnership is to undertake a national engagement through a two-staged approach. At the conclusion of this process, we will jointly provide the Alliance Leadership and the Australian Government with options for cultural heritage reform.

The Partnership

The purpose of the partnership is to:

  • Undertake a national consultation process;
  • Develop options to be considered by the Minister for Environment to improve protections for Indigenous cultural heritage; and
  • Provide advice to the Minister on the timing and scope for a meeting with relevant State and Territory Ministers (Ministerial Roundtable).
  • The partnership will consider policy transformation, law reform, administrative improvement, and the review and restructure of processes, procedures and protocols.

Find out more about the partnership between Alliance and Commonwealth here.

Partnership Governance

The partnership agreement:

  • Establishes an Implementation Working Group (IWG) to provide administrative support to the JWG and lead the work of the Partnership.

The governance – partnership between the Alliance & the Federal Government

Structure of the partnership between Alliance and the Federal Government

Governance of the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance and our partnership with the Federal Government to reform cultural heritage laws.

The reform process

  • This process is about co-designing options for reform, to be presented to the Minister for the Environment and the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance leadership for consideration.
  • The process will be informed by a national engagement process delivered in two stages over 12 months.
  • Stage 1 consultations ran from March until June 2022.
  • The feedback from Stage 1 has been collated into a directions report to summarise the findings. It will also allow the Alliance to consider further exploration options and provide the strategic direction for Stage 2 engagements.
  • Stage 2 will include a broader engagement process with First Nations peoples and communities, industry and governments, in face-to-face consultations across the country, however, the option to still meet online or provide written feedback to be available.
  • The Partnership Agreement stipulates that the Alliance and the Commonwealth will jointly consider opportunities for reform, through a co-designed national engagement process.
  • Within the scope outlined, the Alliance will consider legislative reform, policy transformation, administrative improvement, and governance.
  • The Alliance is clear this must be a genuine opportunity for reform and not just another government process that gathers dust on the shelf.


Stage Two Consultations

August 2022 to March 2023


The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance and the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, have developed a co-design partnership to modernise and reform Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage protections.

This process is informed by a national engagement process, with Stage 1 consultations concluding in [July] 2022.

Arising from Stage 1 consultation is the Directions Report and Options Paper linked to below.

The Directions Report details the outcome of Stage 1 consultations, while the Options Paper sets out 3 possible options for Commonwealth legislative reform.

Stage 2 consultations have commenced with limited targeted consultations occurring in Northern Australia and broader First Nations, public, and industry consultations being scheduled for early 2023.

The consultations are focusing on the 3 models outlined in the Options Paper, seeking the views of First Nations peoples and organisations from around the country, as well as the views of all State and Territory governments, and stakeholders in industry and the wider community.

For further information and to book a stage 2 consultation please email the Alliance Secretariat.

Download the Options Paper (reform models arising from consultations)

Stage One Consultations

Concluded June 2022

  • The engagement was predominantly conducted online
  • Invitations were extended to:
    • First Nations people and organisations
    • State and territory governments
    • Industry
  • Stage 1 consultations provided the basis for the three reform options outlined in the options paper

Stage 1 discussion paper – download here

Implementation Plan – download here

Implementation Plan Terms of Reference – download here

Access Australian Government information on this process – here