Indigenous heritage information

The Northern Territory (NT) has a rich and diverse range of Aboriginal archaeological places, including:

  • artefact scatters
  • shell middens
  • earth mounds
  • quarries
  • stone arrangements
  • rock shelters
  • rock art
  • places that provide evidence of early contact between Aboriginal people and Europeans.

Macassan heritage

The NT coastline also contains evidence of visits by Macassan people, who sailed from present-day Indonesia from the early 1700s until the early 1900s and interacted with Aboriginal people. 

Evidence of these visits includes:

  • the remains of stone fireplaces and smoke houses
  • tamarind trees planted by the Macassans
  • fragments of earthenware and porcelain.

Surveys and research

Aboriginal and Macassan archaeological places are important to Aboriginal people as part of their continuing culture and identity.

Aboriginal explanations about the meaning and significance of these places must be acknowledged.

Aboriginal people have the right to be involved in decision-making concerning these places.

Traditional Owners must be:

  • told of the intent to carry out archaeological survey work or research
  • involved in fieldwork if possible
  • consulted about progress and told of findings and recommendations that is easy to understand
  • acknowledged for their contribution.

Archaeological consultants should follow the policies of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists when consulting with Aboriginal communities.

Find out about archaeological places

Information about Aboriginal and Macassan archaeological places in the NT is culturally sensitive.

You can access the information only for the following reasons:

  • if you have a legitimate interest
  • your request relates to the management of these archaeological places.

For more information, contact the Heritage Branch.

Development in archaeological places

If you are proposing development in an area where there is likely to be Aboriginal and Macassan archaeological place you should contact the Heritage Branch for the following advice:

  • the steps you need to take to make sure you are following the law
  • information about known Aboriginal and Macassan archaeological places
  • advice about the likelihood of these places existing.

When you don't need a permit

You may get permission from the Heritage Branch for small-scale disturbance without the need for a formal application such as for the relocation of isolated stone artefacts.

This is allowed under the Heritage Act 2011.

You must properly record places and objects before they are disturbed.

The Heritage Branch has the final decision about what happens to artefacts. There is a preference for them to be handed over to traditional owners.

When you need a permit

If the impact of your work is unavoidable and you propose to disturb an Aboriginal or Macassan archaeological place you must:

Contact the Heritage Branch

Heritage Branch
Department of Tourism, Sport and Culture
GPO Box 1448
Darwin NT 0801
Phone: 08 8999 5039

Last updated: 20 July 2020

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