The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council is a statutory body established by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. The Council has membership comprised solely of Victorian Traditional Owners.
Since amendments to the Act that took effect in 2016, statutory functions previously under the control of the Secretary, Department of Premier and Cabinet, were transferred to the Council in line with the State Government of Victoria’s commitment to Aboriginal self-determination. As such, Council is now the authority to whom all Ancestral Remains and secret or sacred objects in Victoria must be reported and transferred to.
The Act clarifies the ownership of Aboriginal cultural material, specifically referring to; Ancestral Remains and secret and sacred objects, as belonging to the Traditional Owners from an area in which the object originated.
Under the Act a person or entity who is not the owner of Ancestral Remains or secret or sacred objects and who has custody of them, must report and transfer Ancestral Remains or objects to the Council.
Since 2016, the Council has managed numerous transfers of Ancestral Remains and secret and sacred objects in keeping with their statutory responsibilities. The Council will continue the important work to return these to their rightful Traditional Owners.
The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, in the words of Chairperson Rodney Carter, “ ... will always support Traditional Owners and their people to talk in their own voice about their cultural heritage.”
Through its work the Council is protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage for all Victorians, “ ... it is our job to protect it and to involve Traditional Owners in the decision making for it,” and “ … the Act is founded on the principle that Ancestors and secret and sacred objects are returned to the right people.”
Rodney Carter, Chairperson Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council
Reviewed 23 June 2021