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Archaeological places and objects are protected by the Northern Territory’s Heritage Act. Archaeological places may include artefact scatters, shell middens, earth mounds, quarries, stone arrangements, petroglyphs, rock shelters and rock art. When these sites have an Aboriginal tradition associated with them as defined under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (1979), they are considered sacred sites for the purposes of the Sacred Sites Act. 

Aboriginal skeletal remains are considered Aboriginal archaeological places and objects under the Heritage Act.  When skeletal remains are found in the Northern Territory, it is the police who should be contacted in the first instance.If they determine that the remains are not of a suspicious nature and may be of traditional Aboriginal origin, they will contact the Heritage Branch responsible for administering the Heritage Act. The Heritage Branch routinely works with the Authority in order to consult the relevant custodians, and be advised of the location of sacred sites in the vicinity of the burial area.

Under the Heritage Act it is an offence to interfere with archaeological places and objects without authorization under that Act.

If you do encounter skeletal remains, it is your responsibility by law to stop any work that is occurring and report such disturbance to the police immediately. If you have reason to believe the remains are those of an Aboriginal burial, this should be reported to the Heritage Branch. For further information you can contact the Heritage Branch, Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment on (08) 8999 5039 or email