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Provide cultural and heritage support as appropriate to the traditional owners and other clients of the land councils.


The CLC continued to assist traditional owners to visit country to fulfil their cultural obligations, maintain sacred sites, pass on cultural knowledge, and undertake customary land management practices. These visits happen in association with a wide range of IPA and ranger program activities. Traditional owners especially value extended trips to seldom-visited country because these trips rejuvenate remote parts of the region and owners’ knowledge of their country.

The CLC conducted three country visits in the Katiti-Petermann IPA, facilitating knowledge transfer and practical outcomes, such as fire management and protection of waterholes
and sacred sites. In collaboration with Atitjere Sports and Recreation and Children’s Ground, the Arltarlpilta Inelye Rangers, based in Atitjere (Harts Range), organised and carried out an indigenous cultural and ecological knowledge camp for local young women. This resulted in the passing on of women’s knowledge and served to inform young women of the importance of protecting their bodies and culture. The women also made bush medicine, prepared meals and visited sacred sites. The Ltyentye Apurte Rangers conducted three country visits, focussed on the intergenerational transfer of cultural and ecological knowledge. This is critically important for the development of future ranger leaders.

Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara women commenced the Kungka Kutjara project in 2017, following the songline from its beginning at a site near Kata Tjuta to a site near Utju (Areyonga). The CLC sourced ABA funds to complete the final stage of the Kungka Kutjara songline project within Arrernte country. Western and Central Arrernte women collaborated with women from across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands to maintain and strengthen women’s cultural understanding and practice of this defining story for Aboriginal women in Central Australia. Approximately 120 women visited the sites, shared knowledge and practised the inma (ceremony) with successive generations. These activities were recorded and will be produced into audio-visual teaching resources for generations to come.


Sacred sites are places of deep spiritual significance and are integral to Aboriginal culture. Their identification and protection ensure the continuity of religious and cultural practices, and sustain identity. Confidence in the protection of sacred sites also allows traditional owners to make informed decisions about using land for development and other purposes.

Following Rio Tinto’s blasting of the ancient caves in Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara, the CLC attended a national crisis meeting in June 2020. This meeting of land councils, native title representative bodies and Aboriginal community controlled organisations resolved to pursue heritage protection reforms across the nation. It formed the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance to develop a national approach to protect and promote Australia’s cultural heritage. CLC chief executive, Joe Martin- Jard, joined the co-convenors of the alliance, NSW Aboriginal Land Council chair, Anne Dennis, and National Native Title Council deputy chair, Kado Muir; along with the chief executives of the National Alliance of Community-controlled Health Services and Northern Land Council, Pat Turner and Marion Scrymgour, to form the alliance’s organising committee.

The CLC receives many development proposals for land in its region. Proposals undergo a work area approval process that ensures traditional owners are consulted, and sacred sites are protected by a sacred site clearance certificate.

Table 20. Sacred site clearance certificates, 2019–20

Exploration and mining on Aboriginal land


Exploration and mining on native title lands


Research for telecommunications infrastructure


Community and other infrastructure


Housing and leases




Land management activities






The CLC’s anthropologists conducted research, issued advice or assisted in consultations in 331 instances related to the provision of cultural and heritage support to traditional owners or native title holders. Table 21 lists anthropological research and advice on the maintenance of Aboriginal culture and heritage.

Table 21. Cultural and heritage support, 2019–20

Exploration and mining on Aboriginal land


Exploration and mining on native title land


Research for telecommunications infrastructure


Community and other infrastructure


Housing and leases




Land management activities


Site damage investigations






Genealogical requests – External


Genealogical requests – Internal


Genealogical historical data


Sites database administration and research


The CLC responded to 60 requests for genealogical information and performed other duties to maintain and improve genealogical and other anthropological information by completing 28 research projects. This included community consultations with constituents to update genealogies, and the digitisation of land claim and other historical materials.

It has progressed the redevelopment of its sacred sites database and completed 10 sites database administration and research projects, such as audits of historical materials, scoping studies and project design documentation.

The Willowra mapping project is a community-led initiative to record and paint sacred sites along the Lander River on a large canvas map to be housed in the community’s learning centre. The project is funded by the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust and aims to assist the intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge. The project continued to collect information from senior traditional owners, some of whom are the last generation to have lived off the land. The use of digital recording technology assisted in recording a number of sites and songlines early in 2020. Documenting this important information as it is being relayed to the next generations forms an important legacy for senior people participating in the project. Other communities in the region have expressed an interest in establishing similar projects.

In 2019 the CLC progressed consultations about the repatriation of objects held by 10 German museums and made a submission to these museums. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted plans to visit them to continue negotiations; however, the CLC received responses from three of six museums it approached for advice about objects in their collections.​

Simon Butler from Warakurna and Tapaya Edwards from Pukatja (Ernabella) lead the inma at the Uluru climb closure ceremony.
Simon Butler from Warakurna and Tapaya Edwards from Pukatja (Ernabella) lead the inma at the Uluru climb closure ceremony.

It repatriated 15 objects from its own collection to senior men across the region and continued to store sacred objects under an agreement with the Strehlow Research Centre, until the objects can be identified and repatriated. The CLC and the centre discussed future funding of positions at the centre and its capacity to store objects there.

The CLC also progressed agreements with South Australian and Victorian museums about access to their information and repatriation from their collections. It also met with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to work on the return of cultural heritage objects from overseas museums.


The ABA funds the CLC to help Aboriginal families meet some of the high costs of funerals and ceremonies. Traditional owner groups and communities also use leasing and compensation income streams to set up funeral funds administered by the organisation.

The CLC allocated the ABA funds according to strict guidelines. It processed 207 applications for funeral expenses. Table 22 shows the communities that received resources for ceremonies during the summer.

Table 22. Communities supported to conduct ceremonies

Region 1

Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Wallace Rockhole, Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa)

Region 2

Utju (Areyonga), Kaltukatjara (Docker River)

Region 3

Kalkaringi, Lajamanu

Region 4

Yuendumu, Willowra

Region 5

Kintore, Papunya, Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff), Mt Liebig

Region 6

Tennant Creek

Region 7

People travelled to Irrelirre (Number 5 community)

Region 8

Irrelirre (Number 5 community), Atitjere (Harts Range), Mulga Bore

Region 9

Tara, Ti Tree, Pmara Jutunta (6 Mile), Yuelamu
(Mt Allen), Laramba

Simon Butler from Warakurna and Tapaya Edwards from Pukatja (Ernabella) lead the inma at the Uluru climb closure ceremony.
Simon Butler from Warakurna and Tapaya Edwards from Pukatja (Ernabella) lead the inma at the Uluru climb closure ceremony.