The Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Act 2016provides for the protection and recognition of Aboriginal cultural heritage (places, objects and human remains). It recognises Aboriginal people as the primary guardians for their cultural heritage. Registered Aboriginal Parties are registered under this Act (DPC 2014).
VicForests’ obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Act 2016
Processes must be developed to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage
A Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) must be developed (Aboriginal Heritage Regulations, 2007) should any ‘high impact’ activity take place in all or part of an area of cultural sensitivity
The Traditional Owner Settlement Act provides for an out-of-court settlement of native title and delivery of land justice.
Recognition and Settlement Agreement under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 is an attractive alternative to pursuing a native title determination as:
It is a streamlined, expedited and cost effective approach to settling native title claims by negotiation
It includes new outcomes to increase the proportion of Aboriginal people with access to their traditional lands and to increase economic and social opportunities in Victoria
It contributes to reconciliation in Victoria through building stronger partnerships with Aboriginal Victorians, resolving long-standing land grievances, and strengthening communities and cultural identity
Native title recognises the traditional rights and interests to land and waters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Under the Native Title Act 1993(NTA), native title claimants can make an application to the Federal Court to have their native title recognised by Australian law (NTSV 2012).
The native title rights of Aboriginal people must be recognised and protected when conducting activities on Crown Land and Waters;
A process that enables the checking of Native Title claims must be undertaken prior to commencing public works;
VicForests must follow procedural rights, including sending notice to the relevant claimant seeking comment if a VicForests activity is determined to affect a Native Title claim;
Activities that may affect Native Title require a Future Act Assessment; and
Public works must comply with any conditions agreed to in an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUAA) should that agreement apply to forest harvesting operations in the relevant area.
Providing suitable roads under the Road Management Act 2004, for the efficient transport of forest produce from VicForests' harvesting coupes is a critical component of VicForests’ business.
The components of the road network that VicForests utilises to deliver timber to customers can be broadly broken into three categories:
State and national roads, primarily managed by VicRoads;
Municipal roads managed by Local Government, and
State forest roads managed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
VicForests roading responsibilities and road management arrangements with DELWP are set out in the Road Management Agreement. This agreement enables DELWP and VicForests to work together to provide a suitable network of roads for the transport of timber from VicForests' managed harvesting operations. This partnership is important as DELWP is responsible for the State forest permanent road network and is the responsible road authority for these roads on public land as defined by the Road Management Act 2004.