Best Practice Indigenous Engagement under the EPBC Act

Draft Policy Statement for public comment


Engage Early

The Department of the Environment (DoE) is seeking public comment on a DRAFT Policy Statement: Engage Early - Guidance for proponents on best practice Indigenous engagement for environmental assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The draft policy statement provides guidance on how the Australian Government seeks to improve how proponents engage and consult Indigenous people during environmental assessments under the EPBC Act.

The Draft Policy recognises that Indigenous people have an important role in the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia’s biodiversity and Indigenous heritage, and that early engagement with relevant Indigenous people is an important step in the environmental assessment process.

Best Practice Engagement under the draft policy includes:

  • Identifying and acknowledging all relevant affected Indigenous peoples and communities
  • Committing to early engagement at the pre-referral stage
  • Setting appropriate timeframes for consultation
  • Demonstrating cultural awareness
  • building trust through early and ongoing communication during the project


According to Rick Bullers (Senior Cultural Heritage Advisor):

'The draft policy statement is relevant for development projects where significant impacts will occur, or is likely to occur, to a protected matter under the EPBC Act, such as the listed Indigenous heritage values of a National Heritage place, World heritage property, or the development occurs on Commonwealth land or Commonwealth Marine Area, or areas that are or could be subject to Native Title claim/determination'.

'It is important to note that where the draft policy statement refers to significant impacts to listed Indigenous heritage values of a National Heritage Place or World Heritage property, it extends beyond archaeological materials to include significant impacts to biodiversity (if biodiversity is listed as an Indigenous heritage value).

Under the policy, early engagement includes consultation during the pre-referral process and this is one area where Ecology and Heritage Partners regularly collaborates with Indigenous Communities, our clients and Government to reach suitable outcomes'.


Interested in further information on best practice engagement please contact one of our Cultural Heritage Advisors on 03-9377-0100 or

Relevant Link

Department of the Environment

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