A NSW Government website

Aboriginal outcomes

Healthy Country

The Healthy Country initiative delivers a comprehensive range of programs and projects that take a 'whole of Country' landscape approach. They are grounded in a commitment to align with land management practices with Aboriginal community notions of, and aspirations, for healthy Country.

Through community partnerships, we focus on protecting the rights Aboriginal people have in relation to all aspects of their heritage, knowledge and cultural expressions. Policies and resources have been developed to support the use of Aboriginal cultural knowledge in projects, business or activities across the department.

The Healthy Country initiative includes:

  • Cultural Fire Management
  • Dual Naming and Languages
  • Working on and Caring for Country
  • Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property

Aboriginal community-led projects that embed traditional knowledge in land management practices, including the use of cultural fire.

Dual naming policy for geographical features and cultural sites.

Working on and Caring for Country

This initiative seeks to develop a NSW Aboriginal land and water management program that empowers Aboriginal communities to lead caring for Country.

This initiative now forms part of the Healthy Country initiative, that looks at opportunities to increase support and funding to promote growth and sustainability in the industry. The Working on and Caring for Country Strategic Framework will also build on existing successes in a holistic way.

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) includes objects or materials, artwork and iconography. It also has intangible elements –the knowledge and cultural practice incorporated within the objects. This cultural heritage is living and evolving. It is handed down from generation to generation and is inextricably connected to Country. It will continue to evolve for generations to come.

ICIP, and the roles and responsibilities to look after culture and pass it on, come from Country. They come from the particular Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander group, or their lands or waters. Many generations may contribute to the development of ICIP. In this way, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage is communally owned.

Current Australian legislation often fails to recognise the communal nature of this ownership. Because of this, the department has committed to protecting ICIP legally and morally through developing our own ICIP Protocol.

The rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples their ICIP

The rights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have to their ICIP are enshrined within international law. Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This sets out the rights Indigenous peoples of the world need for their survival, dignity and wellbeing.

The UNDRIP states that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, cultural knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, cultural knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.’

Our commitment to ICIP

Through the department’s work on Country and our engagement with Aboriginal people and communities across NSW, we inevitably engage with ICIP. This will happen across the areas of work that are particularly relevant for Aboriginal communities. This includes when we:

  • make decisions about land or water, including when these affect culturally significant sites
  • engage the services of Aboriginal people including as consultants, performers, guest speakers or for a Welcome to Country
  • commission artworks from Aboriginal artists that incorporate cultural knowledge
  • contract Aboriginal people to make or feature in films or recordings that document an Aboriginal community’s priorities for Country, their cultural heritage, or cultural knowledge
  • consult with and record Aboriginal people and communities sharing cultural knowledge in community forums, workshops, or other events
  • incorporate the personal stories, perspectives, experiences, priorities, culture of Aboriginal people and communities into projects, case studies or reports
  • fund organisations, such as incorporated Aboriginal organisations, and unincorporated Aboriginal groups, to deliver projects that include their traditions, cultural knowledge and beliefs
  • collaborate with Aboriginal people and communities on co-design projects such as written reports, incorporating their cultural knowledge, beliefs and cultures
  • collect data, facts or information about Aboriginal people, knowledge, culture, or Country
  • use language in projects such as naming places, sites, rooms, or other locations.

Disclaimer: The term “Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property” (ICIP) has a broad and recognised meaning in Australia and internationally, it has been adopted when referring to Aboriginal heritage, knowledges, and cultural expressions. The DPE acknowledges that this term encompasses both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, knowledges, and cultural expressions. We acknowledge Torres Strait Islander people living within NSW and respect all First Nations cultures and people in Australia.