The Register of Aboriginal Sites and Objects is maintained by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation who normally acts on the advice of the Aboriginal Heritage Committee. An Aboriginal site or an Aboriginal object are those that are of significance according to Aboriginal tradition, archaeology, anthropology or history.
Aboriginal tradition means traditions, observances, customs or beliefs of the people who inhabited Australia before European colonisation and includes traditions, observances, customs and beliefs that have evolved or developed from that tradition since European colonisation. Local archives may also be kept containing information relating to Aboriginal sites or objects. Entries in the Register can happen at any time, but must be made if a person applies to take action on private land containing an Aboriginal site, object or remains.
If an application is made the Minister can request further information and demand that the applicant engages an expert to provide such information. Before entering a site or object on the Register, or approving action on land containing a site or object, the Minister must consult with traditional owners, the Aboriginal Heritage Committee and any other Aboriginal organisation or person with an interest in the matter.
Entry on the Register creates a conclusive presumption that an item is an Aboriginal site or object; a determination by the Minister that an item should not be placed on the Register creates a conclusive presumption that it is not an Aboriginal site or object, but such a decision can be reversed. There is no provision for members of the public or a landowner to object to entry of an Aboriginal site or object in the Register of Aboriginal Sites and Objects.
Information entered in the central or local archives must normally be kept confidential unless the traditional owners of the site or object have approved disclosure. Information can only be obtained where a person proposes to undertake an activity and it is believed that the land contains an Aboriginal site or object or these are discovered while carrying out activities on the land.