Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs)

Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) are a series of archaeological assessments that aim to document Aboriginal cultural heritage present within a defined area (‘activity area’), which typically includes land subject to future development. These assessments are then detailed in a comprehensive report which aims to develop appropriate management strategies for any Aboriginal cultural heritage present within that area, in line with the relevant legislation and the needs of the client.

In Victoria, Aboriginal cultural heritage is protected by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Read our overview of the Act and associated Regulations.

What is AboriginalCultural Heritage?

Aboriginal cultural heritage can be any tangible or intangible element of Aboriginal culture, including knowledge, tradition, cultural practices, oral history, spirituality, places and objects that are meaningful, and connected to identity and Country. Tangible records of Aboriginal cultural heritage are present all across the landscape, having been deposited over tens of thousands of years of occupation. This record forms an important part of Aboriginal cultural heritage and can consist of:

  • Aboriginal ancestral remains/burials;
  • Aboriginal places;
  • Artefact scatters and low-density artefact distributions (LDADs);
  • Scarred trees;
  • Earth features, such as hearths, mounds and soil deposit;
  • Quarries;
  • Shell middens;
  • Stone features; and
  • Rock art.

Remember, cultural heritage is not important because the law protects it, the law protects it because it is important!

Who needs a CHMP?

Anybody who is proposing to carry out a high impact activity (as defined by the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018) that might cause significant disturbance to the ground may require a CHMP. For example, small and large scale developers, utility developers, architects, town planners, local Council, State Government and other government bodies are often required to have a CHMP prepared and approved prior having a planning permit or other statutory authorisation issued for a proposed activity or development.

However, anyone who is proposing to carry out an activity that might cause disturbance to the ground may require a CHMP, depending on the type of activity or development proposed, and the area in which the activity is set to take place in.

Jem Archaeology recommends that a due diligence is conducted in any instance where a high impact activity is proposed to ensure all regulatory obligations are known and budgeted for prior to commencing the remainder of the planning process.

When is a CHMP required?

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018 require a CHMP to be prepared and approved prior to a planning permit being issued for a certain development or activity if the following conditions are met:

  • The proposed activity, or part of a proposed activity lies within an area of mapped cultural heritage sensitivity, as defined by the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018; and
  • The proposed activity is a high impact activity, as defined by the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018.

What is an area of cultural heritage sensitivity?

Areas of mapped cultural heritage sensitivity, as defined by the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018, include but are not limited to:

  • Registered cultural heritage places (Aboriginal places), and land within 50 metres of a registered cultural heritage place;
  • Waterways and prior waterways, and land within 200m of a waterway or prior waterway;
  • Ancient lakes, and land within 200m of an ancient lake;
  • Declared Ramsar wetlands, and land within 200 metres of declared Ramsar wetlands;
  • Coastal Crown land;
  • Land within 200 metres of the high water mark of the coastal waters of Victoria;
  • Parks;
  • High Plains;
  • Koo Wee Rup Plain;
  • Dunes; and
  • Sand sheets (including the Cranbourne sand).

Areas of cultural heritage sensitivity can be found via the First Peoples – State Relations online mapping tool. Please note that these maps consistently change and are sometimes not immediately updated.

As such, Jem Archaeology recommends that you consult a Heritage Advisor before you proceed to determine if a CHMP may be required.

What is a ‘high impact’ activity?

High impact activities, as defined by the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018 include, but are not limited to:

  • Buildings and works for specified uses, including but not limited to car park, childcare centre, education centre, hospital, industry, minor and major sports and recreation facilities, office, place of assembly, residential building and village, retail premises, utility installation, warehouse;
  • Specified items of infrastructure, including but not limited to bicycle/walking track exceeding 500 metres, rail infrastructure, road infrastructure and telecommunication assets;
  • Three or more dwellings;
  • Subdivision of land;
  • Wind farms;
  • Alpine resorts;
  • Extraction or removal of stone;
  • Extraction or removal of sand or sandstone;
  • Extraction or removal of loose stone on agricultural land of Victorian Volcanic Plain;
  • Dams; and
  • Specified uses of land, including instances in which a statutory authorisation is required to change the use of land.

If you are unsure if you need a CHMP for your proposed activity, contact us today for accurate, free and expert advice.

How is a CHMP prepared and evaluated?

Three levels of assessment are involved in the preparation of a CHMP, however; not all projects require all three assessments to be carried out.
The three levels of CHMP assessments include:

  • Desktop CHMP;
  • Standard CHMP (desktop + ground survey); and
  • Complex CHMP (desktop + ground survey + excavation)

The type of CHMP and level of assessment required will depend on the nature and location of the proposed activity. Additionally, timelines and budgets are dependent on the level of assessment required.

Desktop Assessments

Desktop Assessments investigate the nature and land use history of the activity area, determine the presence of any previously recorded Aboriginal Cultural Heritage, areas of cultural sensitivity, or if the activity area has been subject to ‘significant ground disturbance’, as defined by the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018.

The outcome of the Desktop CHMP will determine the requirement for a Standard and/or Complex Assessment to be carried out.

Standard Assessment

Should the Desktop Assessment determine that it is reasonably possible for Aboriginal cultural deposits to be present within the activity area, a CHMP will progress to a Standard Assessment. A Standard Assessment involves a ground survey of the activity area in consultation with the relevant Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP)/Aboriginal Traditional Owner group/s, during which an assessment of ground conditions, landforms and cultural heritage likelihood is carried out. Should the Standard Assessment identify the presence of Aboriginal places, or determine that it is likely that Aboriginal cultural deposits are present within the activity area in a sub surface context, a Complex Assessment will be required.

Complex Assessment

Should the Standard Assessment determine Aboriginal places are present, or that it is likely for Aboriginal cultural deposits to be present within the activity area in a sub-surface context, a CHMP will progress to a complex assessment. A Complex Assessment involves, at a minimum, the excavation of manual test pits (TPs) to test for the presence of, and to determine the spatial extent of Aboriginal cultural deposits across each landform within the activity area. The TPs are frequently accompanied by smaller manual excavations in the form of shovel test pits (STPs) and/or larger trenches excavated by machine. If new Aboriginal cultural heritage is identified during the complex assessment, this will be registered as a new Aboriginal place on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register (VAHR). The results of excavations are then analysed to develop a management strategy for any Aboriginal cultural heritage that may be present within the activity area.

Once all required assessments are completed, a detailed report (the CHMP) is produced with the relevant findings and submitted for evaluation.

Evaluation of a CHMP

Depending on the location of the activity area the CHMP will be evaluated by either the relevant RAP, or First Peoples – State Relations (FPSR). Once approved, the CHMP and its management conditions become legally binding, and the approved CHMP can be submitted in support of a planning permit or other statutory authorisation application. A copy of the approved CHMP and the associated spatial data will be provided to FPSR and the relevant RAP/Aboriginal Traditional Owner group/s.

Important: Activities permissible in an approved CHMP are limited to the activity area and the specific activity that it was produced for. That means, for example, if a CHMP was originally prepared and approved for the development of three units within a defined activity area, and at a later stage it is decided to build an office complex instead, a new CHMP or an amendment to the existing CHMP would be required.

Who is authorised to produce a CHMP?

Registered Heritage Advisors are authorised to produce CHMPs. Jem Archaeology employs a number of registered and appropriately qualified Heritage Advisors who are experienced in all aspects of the CHMP process. Importantly, Complex Assessments must be supervised by an appropriately qualified and experienced Archaeologist. All of the Heritage Advisors at Jem Archaeology are also Archaeologists.

The Jem Archaeology Difference

Jem Archaeology have been trusted by large and small scale developers, architects, town planners, utilities providers, government and regulatory bodies and councils for the preparation of CHMPs for over nine years.

Our experience, knowledge and intricate understanding of the relevant legislation and regulatory requirements, combined with our vast experience working across Victoria enables us to provide accurate advice and efficient stakeholder management. Our staff have an intricate understanding of the Victorian landscape including bioregions, geology, geomorphology and landforms and how these environmental factors are associated with Aboriginal cultural heritage.

We understand the cultural and environmental differences between working in the different regions of Victoria, for example between Bunurong country and Eastern Maar country, or Wurundjeri country and Gunaikurnai country, or between Wadawurrung country and Dja Da Wurrung country, or the many other areas traditionally owned and occupied by other Aboriginal groups. We have a strong knowledge of the varying expectations and requirements of each RAP or Traditional Owner group/s.

In addition to our in-depth understanding of the Victorian heritage industry, our team specialises in the following sub-disciplines:

  • Lithic (stone tool) analysis and interpretation;
  • Faunal analysis and interpretation (zooarchaeology);
  • Shell midden analysis and interpretation;
  • Archaeological research.

Led by Jem Archaeology Director, Principal Archaeologist and Heritage Advisor Jen Burch, you can count on the knowledge and expertise of the Jem Archaeology team to guide you through the CHMP process and requirements with confidence.









“Jen Burch of Jem Archaeology has provided clear and precise advice, has identified and addressed issues in a practical, transparent and ethical manner and has provided incredible value for money. She has vast knowledge of cultural management and heritage issues, has great rapport with Indigenous parties and has the capacity to efficiently identify and deal with issues that arise. Jen delivers speedy, cost efficient and ethical outcomes. I have no hesitation in recommending Jen Burch and Jem Archaeology to any group or organisation dealing with matters within her area of expertise.”


Warrnambool Project Design and
Development Pty Ltd, 2016


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