Aus map - Federation of Australian Historical Societies Tasmanian Historical research Association Royal Historical Society of Queensland Royal Australian Historical Society Canberra & District Historical Society Royal Historical Society of Victoria History Trust of South Australia Historical Society of the Northern Territory Royal Western Australian Historical Society


search tips advanced search
site search by freefind

Heritage identification and protection

Northern Territory


Heritage Conservation Act 1991

Heritage Conservation Amendment Act 1998

Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989

The Northern Territory Heritage Conservation Act 1991 provides a system for the identification, assessment, protection and conservation of the Territory’s natural and cultural heritage. Such heritage includes fossils, buildings, gardens, ruins, archaeological sites, landscapes, ecosystems, coastlines, plant and animal communities.


For some years the Government has been reviewing the Heritage Conservation Act 1991, and a draft bill is being reviewed in 2010.


The Department of Natural Resources Environment and the Arts is responsible for managing the Territory’s unique cultural and natural heritage. Find out more about how the Department does this by going to Managing NT Heritage. A list of all declared heritage places can be found in the NT Heritage Register. There is also special information about Indigenous Heritage and Maritime Heritage.

Heritage Advisory Council

The Heritage Advisory Council (HAC) is a nine-member body established under the Heritage Conservation Act which has a range of functions that may be broadly summarised as advising the Minister on all matters affecting the natural and cultural heritage of the Territory. This includes carrying out research and evaluating the heritage value of places/objects nominated to the Heritage Register, advising the Minister on the conservation and use of heritage places/objects, promoting public appreciation and use of the Territory’s heritage where appropriate, preparing conservation management plans, advising the Minister on financial incentives for heritage conservation and so on.


The Northern Territory Heritage Register (NTHR) lists all the places and objects declared to be heritage places and objects by the Minister. It also includes interim conservation orders, conservation management plans and heritage agreements. Information on the register is available to the public.


Place refers to any part of the cultural and natural environment having a fixed location: including natural areas and their flora and fauna; architectural and industrial sites and structures; Aboriginal and other non-European sites; archaeological sites; cultural landscapes and townscapes; geological sites.


Many of the declared heritage places and objects are privately owned and the public does not have any special right of access to these places. If you wish to visit any privately owned places you should first obtain permission from the owners.


What is included on the Register

The kinds of places/objects that may be nominated include buildings, trees, fossils, ruins, gardens, landscapes, plant and animal communities, geological features and archaeological sites, places and objects of pre-historic, proto-historic, historic, social, aesthetic or scientific value to the Territory. For example the NTHR currently includes such diverse places as the Alcoota Fossil Beds, Darwin Botanic Gardens, MacClark (Acacia peuce) Conservation Reserve, Alice Springs General Cemetery, Bamboo Creek Tin Mine, Boab Tree Cavenagh Street, Old Hamilton Downs Station, WWII Shipwrecks and Wreck of Young Australian.


The NTHR is available on line as an alphabetical list with links to more detailed information about each place or object.


Places or objects may be nominated to the Register by a member of the public, community organisations, the Heritage Advisory Council (HAC), and the Minister. To nominate a place or object to the Heritage Register download and fill in a nomination form. The Heritage Advisory Council then assesses that place/object against the heritage assessment criteria and makes recommendations to the Minister accordingly, following a period of public comment and consultation.

Criteria for inclusion of a place or object on the register

The criteria for inclusion of a place or object on the NTHR are specified in the Regulations of the Heritage Conservation Act. According to the Regulations a place/object must be of special significance to the Territory and meet at least one of the following criteria:

(a) for the evolution of flora, fauna, landscape or climate;

(b) because of the diversity or richness of its flora, fauna, landscapes or cultural features;

(c) because it contains rare, endangered or uncommon flora, fauna, biotic communities, ecosystems, natural landscapes or phenomena;

(d) in demonstrating the principal characteristics of the range of landscapes, environments or ecosystems, the attributes of which identify them as being characteristic of their class;

(e) as wilderness;

(f) for the maintenance of existing natural processes or systems;

(g) because it contributes to a wider understanding of natural history by virtue of its use as a research site, a teaching site, an example of a type of locality or reference area;

(h) by virtue of its association with events, developments or cultural phases in human occupation and evolution;

(j) by providing information contributing to a broader understanding of the history of human occupation;

(k) in demonstrating a way of life, custom, process, land use, function or design no longer practised, in danger of being lost or of exceptional interest;

(m) in demonstrating the principal characteristics of the range of human activities which take or have taken place in the Territory, including ways of life, customs, processes, land uses, functions, designs or techniques;

(n) by virtue of aesthetic characteristics or through technical, creative, design or artistic excellence, innovation or achievement held in high esteem or otherwise valued by a community;

(p) in being highly valued by a community for religious, spiritual, symbolic, cultural, educational or social associations; or

(q) through its close association with individuals whose activities have been significant in the history of the Territory.

The criteria can be found on page 6 of the nomination form.


The Heritage Branch ensures that the Northern Territory Heritage Conservation Act 1991 (and a new Act when it is passed) is administered effectively, and that the principal object of the Act is achieved - that is to provide a system for the identification, assessment, recording, conservation and protection of heritage places and objects.


Many activities are undertaken in achieving this objective, including:

Government heritage grant programs

The NT Heritage Grant Program (NTHGP) is an annual funding program that provides monies for the conservation, documentation and promotion of the Territory’s heritage. Further information regarding the NTHGP including eligibility criteria and current Ministerial priorities is available on-line.


The Northern Territory contains a rich and diverse range of Aboriginal cultural heritage places, many of which are highly significant to contemporary Aboriginal culture. The Heritage Conservation Act 1991 seeks to conserve these places by providing a system for the identification, assessment, recording, conservation and protection of places and objects.


The Heritage Branch administers the NT Archaeological Resources Database. This database includes information from the Archaeological Site Catalogue that was originally maintained by the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT. There are now over 6000 archaeological sites listed on the database. The information has been obtained from varied sources including archaeologists, anthropologists, Aboriginal people and organisations and members of the public.

Web page(s) and government agency addresses

Heritage organisations in the Northern Territory lists the territory government heritage agencies, database, legislation and non-statutory heritage sites with links to them.

The Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport has information on legislation, the NTHR and Heritage Advisory Council and has links to relevant web pages including the Territory’s grant program.

For more information write to the Heritage Branch, PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831 or phone (08) 8999 5036, or email


Other statutory listings

The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) is an independent statutory organisation established under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act, and is responsible for overseeing the protection of Aboriginal sacred sites on land and sea across the whole of Australia’s Northern Territory. The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) maintains a register of Aboriginal sacred sites. For more information write to GPO Box 1890, Darwin 0801 or ring (08) 8999 5511 for more information.


Non-statutory registers

National Trust of Australia (NT) is a community based not for profit heritage charity dedicated to promoting and conserving the heritage of the Northern Territory. It is not a government organisation or department. It was established by an Act of the Legislative Assembly in 1976, and is affiliated with the Australian Council of National Trusts (ACNT). Places identified by the Trust have an entry on the heritage register database, the entry includes the status. The Trusts postal address is National Trust of Australia (NT), GPO Box 3520, Darwin NT 0801. The telephone number is (08) 8981 2848 and email

Other agencies and grants

The Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) provides professional advice, information and assistance in all aspects of museums practice through its Regional Museums Support Program. Grant funding is provided to Northern Territory museums and keeping places through the Regional Museums Grant Support Program.


Want to create a new, innovative, must-see display? Get that ever-expanding collection sorted, catalogued and properly stored? Employ a specialist to identify those inscrutable objects? Go for some museology training or related professional development? Maybe start an outreach program, becoming a conduit for local creativity?


Regional Museums Grant Support Program funding can help you to realise that dream. Grants are made annually to assist local museums and keeping places to develop programs, design and construct displays, manage their collections, acquire relevant skills and enhance the presentation and preservation of local heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of residents and visitors to the vast and varied regional environs of the Northern Territory.


Who can apply? Legally-constituted or incorporated Northern Territory-based museums, historical societies, public libraries, archives, Indigenous or migrant community groups or similar organisations committed to the preservation of cultural heritage and open to the public are eligible to apply.


For further details telephone (08) 8999 8161, or write to Regional Museums Support Officer, Museums and Art Galleries of the NT, GPO Box 4646. Darwin NT 0801


History grants from the Northern Territory Archives Services fulfil the dual role of providing cultural services to the community and administrative services to the Government. In this respect, the functions of the NT Archives Service include preservation of government and community archives, provision of public access to archives collections and the provision of records management policy, standards and advice relating to appraisal, disposal and the management of permanent records. The Northern Territory Archives Service acquires both government and community archives that have significance to the Northern Territory.


Offered on an annual basis in the form of monetary grants, that are designed to encourage and support the work of researchers who are recording and writing about Territory history. For further details write to The Executive Officer, Northern Territory History Grants, Northern Territory Archives Service, GPO Box 874, Darwin NT 0801 or ring (08) 8924 7677.


Friends of the North Australia Railway (FNAR) are concerned with the history and conservation of the North Australia Railway which ran from Darwin to Birdum from 1888 to 1976. They operate a museum at the Adelaide River Railway Station. For more details phone: 0417 838 578, write to GPO Box 3504 Darwin NT 0801, or send an email to