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In accordance with the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) maintains records of all recorded sites that it has identified in the Northern Territory. This information indicates what the Authority currently knows about an area.

A ‘Request for Information’ is a service that makes available to the public any known sacred site records that may exist over an area of interest.

The sites that are listed in the Records fall into two main categories:

  • Registered Sites – these are sacred sites that Aboriginal custodians have asked the AAPA to protect and that have been comprehensively documented and evaluated by the AAPA. Registered sites include information on locations and boundaries. These make up the Register of Sacred Sites. 
  • Recorded Sites – these are sacred sites that have been made known to the AAPA from a variety of sources. In many cases the AAPA has not been able to assess the accuracy of its information regarding recorded sites, nor have these sites been fully mapped. 

A ‘Request for Information’ is not a definitive way of determining the location of all sacred sites in a given area (particularly where use of land or sea may result in disturbance of features) and only indicates sacred sites known to AAPA. There is a risk that a sacred site previously unknown to AAPA may be identified after the commencement of works, leaving no option but to cease works under the provisions of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act. This is because the Act applies to all sacred sites in the Northern Territory, not just sites registered or recorded by the Authority.

A ‘Request for Information’ does not indemnify the applicant for works that are carried out and does not protect from prosecution if a site is damaged, desecrated or trespassed upon. Only an Authority Certificate provides protection in a Court of Law (provided the certificate conditions are met).

It is recommended that the public use the ‘Request for Information’ process during the preliminary planning stage of a project and seek an Authority Certificate prior to commencing works.

Types of Requests

A 'Request for Information' from AAPA Records is available for inspection by anyone with a bone fide interest in specific areas of land or sea in the Northern Territory.

There are three options when lodging a Request for Information:

  1. Abstract of Records

    An Abstract of Records is useful to anyone seeking to know whether sacred sites exist in a particular area of land that they are interested in. Applicants are provided with a written abstract and map (if applicable) of all of the known recorded and registered sacred sites within an area of land at the time the application is received. It may also contain any Restricted Works Areas (RWAs) that relate to Authority Certificates that have been issued in the past.

    The mapping product is an A3 size map that shows registered sacred sites, registered sacred site boundaries, recorded sites (no boundary information is given for recorded sites) and restricted work area boundaries from previously issued Authority Certificates. 
    Note: AAPA does not normally provide sacred site information in a digital GIS format.

  2. Viewing of Registered Sacred Site Public Register

    The Register of Sacred Sites can be inspected at the Authority’s offices where access to information on the location and extent of registered sites within a clearly specified project area, identified by a lot number is provided. Copies are not available. This inspection provides the centre coordinate point of the site, features of the site, geographic description, custodian details and the tradition associated with the site. Information regarding recorded sacred sites is not available.

  3. Viewing of Authority Certificate Public Register

    The Register of Authority Certificates can be inspected at the Authority’s offices. The Authority will provide access to information on Authority Certificates subject to commercial and secrecy exclusions. The information available includes a list of Authority Certificates granted or refused for a specified area, including the conditions for any works that may have been proposed for that area. Such conditions can include but are not limited to no damage, no ground disturbing works, no damage to trees, no removal of sand or gravel, no access etc.

    Please Note: Copies of Authority Certificates can only be granted or authorised by the holder of the certificate(s) and proof of such is required in writing.

Applying for a Request for Information

Online: Please apply through our online application system at AAPA Online 

Fees and Charges

 
Application Fees Costs*  (GST is not applicable)
An abstract of the Authority’s records (this includes a map up to A3 size showing known sacred sites). Charges are per Parcel, Lot, Mining Tenement or Pastoral Lease etc. $27.00
Inspection of the Register of Sacred Sites. Charges are per Sacred Site inspected. $27.00
Inspection of the Register kept under section 26 of the Act. Charges are per inspection of Authority Certificate application and related Certificate or refusal. $27.00
Additional information which can be provided with an abstract of the Authority’s records Costs**  (GST is applicable)
Per Additional map up to A3 size $27.00
Maps over A3 size:
Per map (for the first 5 maps)
$59.00
Per additional map (when acquiring more than 5 maps) $33.00
Specialised maps or spatial data Equivalent production costs

 

Fees and Charges Factsheet Below

Example Cost

Mr Smith lodges a Request for Information from Records. On the form he has selected the Abstract of Records and would like to know all known sites that fall within 3 adjacent parcel of lands.

What will be the cost to Mr Smith for this Request?

 

Revenue Units (RU)

Value of Revenue

Unit (VRU)

Cost

(RU x VRU)

Quantity (Parcel of Land)

Total

(cost x quantity)

Application

23

$1.15

$27.00

3

$81.00

Map Production

$150.00

 

Total excl. GST:

$231.00

However, upon investigation it is found that there are many known recorded sacred sites within the requested areas which are not easily seen on a small map and the company decides that larger maps will be desirable to show all the information.The company requests maps larger thanA3 for each of the parcels. So what will be the new cost?

 

Revenue Units (RU)

Value of Revenue

Unit (VRU)

Cost

(RU x VRU)

Quantity (mining tenements and NT Portions

Total

(cost x quantity)

Application

23

$1.15

$27.00

3

$81.00

each first 5 maps over A3

50

$1.15

$57.50

5 per map

$287.50

additional 6th map over A3

28

$1.15

$32.00

1 per map

$32.20

Map Production

$150.00

 

Total excl. GST:

$550.00

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a sacred site?

The term “sacred site” is defined in s3 of the Actby reference to its meaning in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) which provides a sacred site is “a site that is sacred to Aboriginals or is otherwise of significance according to Aboriginal tradition, and includes any land that, under a law of the Northern Territory, is declared to be sacred to Aboriginals or of significance according to Aboriginal tradition”.

What is a registered sacred site?

A registered sacred site is indicated on the map by this symbol -

The site number is indicated on the map by a number in the following format XXXX-XX.

A registered sacred site is a site that has been added to the Register of Sacred Sites maintained by the Authority following the process set out in Part III Division 2 of the Act.

The effect of registering a sacred site is set out in s45 of the Act.

The extent of a registered site is the red hatched area -

 

What is a recorded sacred site?

A recorded sacred site is a site that is known to the Authority but has not been registered and includes recorded sacred burial sites. The Authority may hold the information required to register the site should this become the wishes of the custodians. Alternatively, a recorded sacred site may still require further research in order to obtain all necessary information.  The recorded coordinate point for a sacred site is a reference point only and does not necessarily indicate the location or extent of any specific site feature.

A recorded sacred site point is indicated on the map by this symbol -

A recorded sacred burial site is indicated on the map by this symbol - 

Note that recorded sites have not gone through the registration process set out in s28 of the Act. As such, the full extent of the sacred site may change upon registration. The extent of a recorded sacred site is the green hatched area.

The map shows that there are no registered or recorded sites in the area of interest.

Does this mean I can proceed with my works?

Whether you proceed with your works is a decision for you however you should carefully consider the area concerned and the provisions of the Act (particularly those that address the protections, an Authority Certificate provide and the punishments prescribed for the offences set out in Part IV of the Act).

If there is no record of an Authority Certificate being issued over the area concerned, it is possible that there may be sacred sites that are not currently known to the Authority

How long does it take to get an Authority Certificate?

The Authority takes an average of three months to produce an Authority Certificate. The timeframe will vary depending on various factors including the complexity of the proposed works, availability of custodians, remoteness, and access to land.

How much does an Authority Certificate cost?

Division 1A and Division 1 of Part III of the Act set out the procedures for applications for Authority Certificates.

The cost of an Authority Certificate differs depending on whether it is a “standard application” or a “non-standard application”.  The classification of an application is determined by the Authority in accordance with the guidelines prescribed by Regulation 3 and set out at Schedule 1 to the Regulations.

Standard applications will incur a fee in accordance with Schedule 4 of the Regulations.

Non-standard applications are subject to charges which will depend on the nature of the application and the work required by the Authority. These charges are calculated by the Authority in accordance with Regulation 6 of the Regulations. If you submit an application that is determined to be a non-standard application, the Authority will provide you with an estimate of charges for your consideration and approval.

What information is on the Register of Sacred Sites?

The information on the Register of Sacred Sites differs due to the information available and the information permitted by the custodians of the sacred site to be recorded.  Please refer to section 29 of the Act for further information.

However, generally the Register of Sacred Sites may include the following types of information in relation to a sacred site:

The coordinate point of the site (nb: the coordinate point for a sacred site is a reference point only and does not necessarily indicate the location or extent of any specific site feature);

  • Features of the site;
  • Geographic description;
  • Custodian group details; and
  • Aboriginal traditions associated with the site.

How do I inspect the Register of Sacred Sites?

Section 48 of the Act allows a person to apply to the Authority to inspect the Register of Sacred Sites.

The viewing will take place in the Authority’s offices, which are located in Darwin and Alice Springs. No hard or soft copies of the Register will be provided and photographs of the Register are prohibited.

Information that is of a sensitive commercial nature or relates to matters required to be kept secret according to Aboriginal tradition will not be provided.

To view the Register of Sacred Sites please apply online. You must specify the sites or certificates that you would like to view (see the map for the relevant numbers). A staff member will then contact you to organise an inspection time in either our Darwin or Alice Springs office.

In accordance with regulation 8 and with reference to item 2 of Schedule 4 to the Regulations, the fee payable to inspect the Register of Sacred Sites is $27 per sacred site.

Authority Certificate Records are available for Public Inspection in the area of interest. What does this mean?

Areas over which the Authority has previously issued an Authority Certificate are indicated on the map by this hatching -              

In an abstract provided by the Authority pursuant to regulation 7(3) of the Regulations, areas over which the Authority has previously issued an Authority Certificate are indicated on the map.

For these areas, the Authority has consulted custodians for the area in the past about prior works. There may be conditions in the Authority Certificate. These conditions will relate to the works covered by that certificate only.

You cannot rely on an Authority Certificate that was issued to another person.

If there is a record of an Authority Certificate being issued over the area concerned, that certificate only applies to those prior works and will not provide any protection for your works.

There are restricted work areas in the area of interest. What does this mean?

In an abstract provided by the Authority pursuant to regulation 7(3) of the Regulations, a restricted work area will be indicated on the map by this hatching -

A restricted work area relates to an area identified in an issued Authority Certificate. It is an area that had restrictions on the kind of activities that were permitted (or not permitted) in the area.

Can I see the Authority Certificate records that are available for public inspection over the area of interest?

Yes. The Authority will provide access to information on prior Authority Certificates that have been issued in the area of interest.  An application may be made pursuant to section 48.

You will be provided with a list of Authority Certificates granted or refused over the area of interest, including the conditions for any works that may have been proposed for that area. The conditions listed in a prior Authority Certificate are for the works stated in that particular Certificate. Restrictions on works can vary. Sometimes an Authority Certificate will prohibit any work in the area or will prevent certain activities, such as ground disturbing work, damage to trees, or the removal of sand or gravel. The conditions in a certificate are specific to each application and depend on the works proposed.

The viewing will take place in the Authority’s offices, which are located in Darwin and Alice Springs. No hard or soft copies of the Register will be provided and photographs of the Register are prohibited.

Information that is of a sensitive commercial nature or relates to matters required to be kept secret according to Aboriginal tradition will not be provided.

To view Authority Certificates that have been previously issued or refused in your area of interest, please apply online. You must specify the sites or certificates that you would like to view. The map contained in this letter will contain relevant record reference numbers. A staff member will then contact you to organise an inspection time in either our Darwin or Alice Springs office.

In accordance with regulation 8 and with reference to item 3 of Schedule 4 to the Regulations, the fee payable to inspect the Register of Sacred Sites is $27 per inspection of Authority Certificate application and related Certificate or refusal.

No Authority Certificates have been issued in the area of interest. What does this mean?

Areas where the Authority has not issued an Authority Certificate are indicated on the map by this shading -

In an abstract provided by the Authority pursuant to regulation 7(3) of the Regulations, areas where the Authority has not issued an Authority Certificate are indicated on the map. These are areas where the Authority has not undertaken anthropological research. The Authority may not have records of the sacred sites in this area.  It means that there may be sites in the area and work should only proceed with an Authority Certificate, which will be issued after the Authority has spoken with custodians in the area

There are “other sites” in the area of interest. What does this mean?

Other sites are shown on the map by this symbol -

In an abstract provided by the Authority pursuant to regulation 7(3) of the Regulations, other sites (where known) are shown on the map. Other sites include archaeological places or sacred objects.

These places and objects are protected under the Heritage Act 2011 (NT). For further information please contact the Director Heritage Branch, Department of Tourism and Culture on (08) 8999 5051 or email heritage.nretas@nt.gov.au

There is a burial sites in the area of interest. What does this mean?

Burial sites are shown on the map by this symbol -

In an abstract provided by the Authority pursuant to regulation 7(3) of the Regulations, burial sites (where known) are shown on the map.

Under the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) it in an offence to interfere with remains of a deceased person.  It is also an offence contrary to the Heritage Act 2011 to interfere with the remains of a deceased Aboriginal person without authorisation under that Act. In the event that any skeletal remains are unearthed it is your responsibility to stop works and immediately report such disturbance to the NT Police and the Director Heritage Branch, Department of Tourism and Culture.

For further information please contact the Director Heritage Branch, Department of Tourism and Culture on (08) 8999 5051 or email heritage.nretas@nt.gov.au

I know the custodians of the sites in the area of interest. Do I still need an Authority Certificate?

Yes. An Authority Certificate provides a defence against prosecution under the Act as long as the conditions of the Certificate are adhered to. The Authority can only issue an Authority Certificate if it is satisfied of the matters set out in s22 of the Act.

I own the land that is the area of interest. Do I still need an Authority Certificate?

The rights of land owners are preserved under s44 (1) of the Act. Ownership of the land, however, will not defend you against a prosecution under the Act in the event a sacred site is damaged. Only an Authority Certificate can do this. Owners of land that may include sacred sites should ensure they consider the Act and whether they may require an Authority Certificate for their use of the land.

Can I share my abstract of records with other people?

No. It is an offence under s38 of the Act to permit access to, or furnish a document produced for a purpose of the Act without permission of the Authority.

The abstract of records has been provided to you by the Authority for the limited purpose of your consideration. Should you wish to share the abstract, you should write to the Authority seeking permission under s38 (1) of the Act.  You should detail the purpose of sharing the abstract of records.

Can I publish the abstract of records?

No. It is an offence under s38 of the Act to permit access to, or furnish a document produced for a purpose of the Act without permission of the Authority.

The abstract of records has been provided to you by the Authority for the limited purpose of your consideration. Should you wish to publish the abstract, you should write to the Authority seeking permission under s38(1) of the Act.  You should detail the purpose of publishing the abstract of records.

Who can inspect AAPA Records?

Information from Records is available for inspection by anyone with a bone fide interest in specific areas of land or sea in the Northern Territory.

What do I receive when my application has been processed?

A request for an Abstract of Records is the most popular form of Request for Information. You may receive a summary letter and a map (where required) of your request area with polygons and points representing AAPA records.

How long does an application take to process?

Applications can usually be processed in less than two weeks.

How much does it cost?

The cost for this improved service is now $150 plus $27 per parcel of land searched. 

How to contact AAPA?

For any questions about the process, please contact the AAPA by email enquiries.aapa@nt.gov.au or by phone on 8999 4365 or 8951 5023.