Indigenous land & sea management

The destruction of Juukan Gorge highlighted the weakness of current legal protections for First Nations cultural heritage. The ongoing exploitation of country for fossil fuel projects, despite the opposition of Traditional Owners, also highlights the inadequacy of consultation rules and the absence of “free prior and informed consent” obligations.

Positively, there has been an expansion of Indigenous Protected Areas and support for indigenous rangers, growing integration of indigenous land management practices likes burning regimes, and some effective co-management arrangements for sea country within the Great Barrier Reef. 

A review of federal cultural heritage laws is underway, but no clear commitments have been made. Cultural heritage laws will need to be developed by and for First Nations communities to ensure they are fit for purpose, and adequately recognise and protect cultural landscapes, songlines and intangible heritage.

What’s been happening?

What’s coming up?
  • Throughout 2024 – targeted EPBC reform consultation (see Land & Biodiversity), including First Nations consultation standards.
  • 12 April, 6 – 7 May 2024 – public hearings for Protecting the Spirit of Sea Country Bill inquiry
  • Mid 2024 – review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act
  • Mid 2024 – World Heritage Committee to make determinations on Cape York and West Kimberley listing 
  • Mid 2025 – World Heritage Committee to make determination on Murujuga Cultural Landscape listing 

What is the AEGN doing?
  • Ensuring First Nations voices are centred in events and discussions, and showcasing First Nations projects
  • Ongoing work through the Indigenous Land and Sea working group, Rivers of the North, and AEGN Wisdom Group
  • Keeping members updated on campaign and advocacy projects, including opportunities to make submissions or lobby decision makers

What can AEGN members do?

Become a member

It’s been exciting to see the growth in sophistication of how the AEGN operates. For the benefit of all.

Hayley Morris, Morris Family Foundation