Amendments to the Aboriginal Relics Act: Aboriginal Relics Amendment Bill 2017

The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Matthew Groom MP, introduced the Aboriginal Relics Amendment Bill 2017 to the Parliament on 15 March 2017. He announced this step in a media release. (He also introduced a short Aboriginal Relics (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2017 that simply amends references to the Act in other legislation so they cite the new name.)

Introduction of the Bills followed extensive consultation that included a public consultation process in June-July 2016 and release for comment of a draft exposure Bill, from 30 November 2016 to 24 February 2017. During February 2017 there was a further round of direct consultation with Aboriginal community organisations and industry stakeholders.

The Bills passed the House of Assembly on 6 April. Debate commenced in the Legislative Council on 13 April and it is expected to resume after the Council sits again in late May. Subject to the Parliamentary process, it is hoped the Bills can come into force in the third quarter of the year.

What is proposed to be ​amended?

The priority is to address areas of immediate concern in the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975 while committing to undertake a full review of the amended Act in three years, with a view to its replacement by all-new legislation.

The Bill addresses a number of inadequacies in the existing legislation, including by:

  • changing the name of the Act to the “Aboriginal Heritage Act"; 
  • removing reference to 1876 as being a “cut-off" point for what is considered as Aboriginal heritage (still referred to as “relics" in the Act); 
  • increasing penalties for damage to Aboriginal heritage to be in line with the penalties for damage to non-Aboriginal heritage;
  • introducing tiered offences, in association with the removal of the ignorance defence; introducing new defences related to emergency responses and compliance with guidelines; and removing the six-month time limit for prosecuting offences;
  • establishing a statutory Aboriginal Heritage Council of Aboriginal people to advise the Minister; and
  • setting a statutory three-year deadline for a full review of the Act. 

Relevant documents

The Bills have been introduced with a package of supporting material. This material is available on the website of the Parliament of Tasmania, where progress of the Bills can also be followed.

For convenience, the available supporting material can be accessed below.

In addition, there is a copy of the draft Guidelines that have been issued to help inform the debate in the Parliament.

Aboriginal Relics Amendment Bill 2017

Second reading speech

Fact sheet

Clause notes

Aboriginal Relics (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2017

Second reading speech

Fact sheet

Clause notes

  Aboriginal Heritage Legislation Draft Guidelines 2017   (325Kb)

Media release by Matthew Groom MP, Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, on 15 March 2017


Amendments to the Aboriginal Relics Act
Policy Branch
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
GPO Box 44 Hobart TAS 7001