Some of the most significant Aboriginal heritage sites in Australia are located along the River Murray.

The recent floods may impact upon hundreds of sites of cultural significance. These may include:

  • Burial sites
  • Archaeological sites
  • Culturally modified (or scarred) trees
  • Locations such as rock shelters that display rock art (engravings or paintings).

Aboriginal heritage is a finite cultural resource. Where an Aboriginal site is damaged, it often cannot be repaired or replaced.

What does Aboriginal heritage look like?

Aboriginal heritage in South Australia takes many forms and includes artefacts made of wood, bone and stone, surface scatters, culturally modified (scarred) trees, campsites, quarries, stone arrangements, shell middens, ancestral burials, rock art, and historical places.

Heritage sites can also be specific areas, like those used for ceremonies and storylines that interact with particular landscape elements of the River Murray.

See the Protecting Aboriginal heritage after floods guide (PDF, 15.5 MB) to learn more about what to look out for.

What to do if you find Aboriginal heritage?

If you discover something you believe might be an Aboriginal site, object or ancestral remains, do not touch or disturb them.

Potential human remains

If you find anything that looks like human skeletal remains, do not touch or disturb them.

Call the police on 131 444.

If safe to do so, protect and secure the area until police can attend.

The police will determine whether they are Aboriginal ancestral remains.

Aboriginal sites or objects

If you discover an Aboriginal site or object, you must stop any activity around it.

Leave everything in place and contact Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation:

Legal considerations

All Aboriginal heritage is protected by the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988.

Members of the public should not collect, souvenir, clean or dig up anything they suspect is a heritage site, even if they think it is under threat. Unless a person has authorisation from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, they cannot disturb, damage or interfere with Aboriginal sites, objects or remains.

There are penalties for breaching the Act, with fines of up to $10,000 for individuals (or imprisonment for 6 months) and $50,000 for a company.


Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation

Phone: (08) 8226 8900