Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander cultural rights under the ACT Human Rights Act

In the ACT, all public authorities must consider your cultural rights as an Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander person.

Public authorities include:

  • government directorates, agencies and the people who work for them. For example, the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Jervis Bay School, ACT Corrective Services and the Community Services Directorate;
  • organisations that deliver public services for the government;
  • people like ministers or police officers; or
  • statutory authorities, such as the Public Trustee.

Let them know!

You can raise your cultural rights any time:

  • you use public services; or
  • the government is making a decision that affects you, your family, kin and community.

Culture comes in many forms

“I’m a Ngunnawal man, collecting ochre for a ceremony. As an Aboriginal person I have the right to practice my culture.

Here in the ACT our rights are protected in the Human Rights Act.”

Cultural rights exist to protect your traditions and customs. Cultural rights can be relevant in areas such as:

  • medical treatment;
  • health care provided for mothers and babies/children;
  • child protection;
  • the justice system;
  • housing and infrastructure;
  • education and employment;
  • artistic expression;
  • natural resource management;
  • governance and conflict resolution; or
  • use of language.

What does the law say?

Section 27(2) of the ACT Human Rights Act has been in force since 2016 and says:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold distinct cultural rights and must not be denied the right to:

  1. to maintain, control, protect and develop their:
    1. cultural heritage and distinctive spiritual practices, observances, beliefs
      and teachings;
    2. languages and knowledge;
    3. kinship ties; and
  2. to have their material and economic relationships with the land and waters and other resources with which they have a connection under traditional laws and customs recognised and valued.

When can your rights be limited?

Like other human rights, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural rights may be limited or balanced with other rights, as long as the limitation is lawful, reasonable and proportionate.

More information

If you want to discuss a breach of your cultural rights, you can: