Historical Heritage Assessments (HHA)

Historical archaeological sites across Victoria represent a tangible record of post-contact settlement, growth and change, and all such sites over 75 years of age, whether documented or not, are protected under the Victorian Heritage Act 2017. Historical Heritage Assessments (HHAs) are prepared to determine whether there is a known, or possible unrecorded historical site present within an activity area. These assessments aim to identify, assess and document historic archaeological sites, help develop management strategies, and can serve as part of the application for any required permits or consents required from Heritage Victoria (HV) in order to carry out a proposed activity.

When is an HHA required?

It is recommended that any property subject to development that may have a potential, or existing historical heritage site present, be subject to an HHA. The Heritage Act 2017 protects all significant archaeological sites in Victoria, regardless of whether they have been previously recorded; therefore it is important to ensure that no historical places are damaged or destroyed before, during or after the course of works or development. Any recorded or unrecorded historic sites that are at risk of damage or destruction will require a Permit or Consent to be issued prior to the commencement of any proposed works.

An HHA will identify any previously registered historical sites within the activity area and will assess the activity area for potential unregistered historical sites and archaeological potential. Should any historical sites be identified, the HHA will give advice to ensure compliance with the Heritage Act 2017, help develop management strategies, and can serve as part of the application to HV or council for any required permits or consents.

What is an historical heritage or archaeological site?

Thousands of registered and unregistered historical sites are located across Victoria. The Heritage Act 2017 defines an archaeological site as ‘a place (other than a shipwreck) that contains an artefact, deposit or feature which is 75 or more years old; provides information of past activity in the State; requires archaeological methods to reveal information about the settlement, development, or use of the place; and is not associated with any Aboriginal occupation of the place’. Archaeological sites will typically be listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory (VHI) but those of State significance will also be listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR).

However, not all historical heritage necessarily comprises an archaeological site. Many of Victoria’s significant post-contact sites are listed on the VHR, National Trust, War Heritage Inventory (WHI), and a number of sites and properties are listed on the National Heritage List (NHL), Commonwealth Heritage List (CHL), World Heritage List, Commonwealth Heritage List, UNESCO, or are protected under the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018. Additionally, areas and buildings of local significance are often named on the Heritage Overlay (HO) within the Planning Scheme of the local council. These listings are protected by State or national law. An HHA will identify if any such properties or sites are present within your activity area and advise of any relevant legislative obligations and responsibilities.

How is an HHA prepared?

The preparation of an HHA can involve up to three levels of assessments. These include:

  • Detailed desktop assessment;
  • Ground survey; and
  • Application for Consent to Uncover, Excavate or Damage.

Not all HHAs require all three levels of assessment. Additionally, should you also require a preliminary assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage within your activity area, this can be included as a separate component within your HHA.

Desktop Assessment

The preparation of an HHA involves a detailed desktop assessment of the activity area. This assessment will investigate the nature, land use history and current condition of the activity area, identify any previously identified heritage or archaeological sites, and will assess the potential of the activity area for unrecorded heritage or archaeological sites. The outcome of the desktop assessment will determine if any additional assessments are required.

Ground Survey

If the desktop assessment indicates that it is likely that an unrecorded historical site may be present within the activity area, the HHA will proceed to a ground survey. The activity area will be surveyed by a team of appropriately qualified archaeologists for any surface indications of historical heritage or archaeological potential. If any new historical heritage or archaeological places are discovered, a site card will be prepared and submitted to HV in accordance with the Heritage Act 2017.

If HV considers the newly identified historical heritage or archaeological place to be significant, it will be added to the appropriate heritage list or register.

The HHA will detail all previously recorded and newly discovered heritage or archaeological sites located within the activity area.

Application for Consent to Uncover, Excavate or Damage a VHI site

The outcome of the desktop assessment and/or ground survey will determine whether further archaeological investigation is required to be carried out prior to any a permit or consent being issued for the proposed works.

If further archaeological investigation is required (for example, an excavation program), an Application for ‘Consent to Uncover, Excavate or Damage’ will be submitted to HV to gain permission to carry out archaeological excavation.

If no further archaeological investigation is required, an application for ‘Consent to Uncover, Excavate or Damage’ will be submitted to HV on behalf of the client to gain permission to carry out the proposed works or development. If the heritage place is protected at local level by a Heritage Overlay, a permit will be required from council prior to your activity commencing.

The HHA will be provided in report form and can be submitted to HV in support of any Consent to Uncover, Excavate or Damage’ application.

Who is authorised to prepare an HHA?

HHAs should be prepared by an appropriately qualified Archaeologist. Jem Archaeology employs a multi-disciplined team of highly qualified archaeologists who are experienced in both Australian and international site identification, excavation, and artefact analysis.

How much does an HHA cost?

HHAs are prepared on a case by case basis, and the level of assessment required is dependent on a number of factors; consequently, the cost of an HHA may vary. Jem Archaeology prides itself on providing clients with the most cost effective budgeting framework, whilst still delivering expert advice and high quality outcomes.

Our upfront advice and vast experience in conducting HHAs combined with our intricate understanding of the Heritage Act 2017 allows us to provide you with transparent costings that reflect what you are most likely to incur. Our Archaeologists are happy to discuss your individual needs and provide you with a tailored budget framework that will suit your needs.

Trusting Jem Archaeology with your HHA

Jem Archaeology has been trusted by developers, architects, town planners, government and regulatory bodies and councils for the preparation of HHAs for over eight 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 to provide accurate advice and high quality outcomes. We have the advantage of a team of multi-disciplined archaeologists with international experience, who’s individual specialties can cater for any project.

Our staff specialise in the following sub-disciplines:

  • Historical survey, excavation and salvage;
  • Historical artefact identification and analysis;
  • Zooarchaeology;
  • Bioarchaeology;
  • Lithic identification and analysis;
  • Shell identification and analysis;
  • Archaeological research and analysis.

Led by Jem Archaeology Director, Principal Archaeologist and Heritage Advisor Jen Burch, you can count on the expertise of our team to guide you through this process.









“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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