A sacred site is a place within the landscape that has meaning or significance within Aboriginal tradition or ‘Dreaming’. All sites in the Northern Territory are protected by the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act. The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA or ‘the Authority’) maintains a register of sites that have been submitted for protection by Aboriginal custodians.
There is a difference between recorded and registered sites. Registered sites have been formally documented and evaluated by the Authority and include information on locations and boundaries. Recorded sites on the other hand, while still protected, may not have been comprehensively documented and have not gone through the formal registration process.
Aboriginal registered and recorded sites may consist of sacred sites, burial sites, heritage sites, archaeological places and objects. AAPA protects all these three ways, firstly by issuing Authority Certificates for development proposals; secondly, by providing information to the public about sites through access to the Register maintained by the Authority and thirdly, by registering these sites.
The ALC anthropologists have an important role in collecting data, in oral histories and GPS formats that can support the registration of new sites, inform the authority of new information about recorded sites and ensure that companies and organisations on Groote Eylandt with development proposals adhere to the legislative procedures around protecting Aboriginal sites.