The Heritage Act 2017

The Heritage Council is established under the Heritage Act 2017, the legislation that governs our work. The primary purpose of the Heritage Act is to provide for the protection and conservation of the cultural heritage of the State.

The Heritage Act came into operation on 1 November 2017, replacing the Heritage Act 1995, which replaced the Historic Buildings Act 1981 and the Historic Buildings Act 1974.

Changes to the Heritage Act came into operation on 1 February 2024.

The changes are outlined below, and for more detailed information about how the changes affect our processes, see the Heritage Council’s Protocols.

Transitional arrangements 

A period of transition applies to the Heritage Act changes after they come into operation on 1 February 2024. If you have any questions about which version of the Heritage Act your matter will be considered under, please contact the Heritage Council Secretariat.

Changes to the Heritage Council’s processes include:

1. Online access to hearings and documents

Some of the changes in the Heritage Act respond to issues that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Heritage Council could not give members of the public access to documents in their offices or hold public hearings.

The changes:

  • allow the Heritage Council to continue to hold online hearings
  • ensure the Heritage Council provides access to important documents and resources online, when it is not possible for the public to access them in person during a disaster, pandemic declaration, or a state of emergency.

2. Exclusion determination review

Changes allow certain agencies (specified in the Heritage Regulations) to apply to the Executive Director, Heritage Victoria, for an application that a place or object be excluded from consideration for inclusion the Heritage Register, for a period of five years. This is to provide certainty of the State-level significance of a place or object before a project starts.

In certain circumstances the applicant, or a person with a real and substantial interest in the place or object, can request that the Heritage Council review the Executive Director’s decision on an application for an exclusion determination.

For more detailed information on how the Heritage Council will conduct exclusion determination reviews please see the Heritage Council’s Protocol 8 – Exclusion Determination Reviews and Exclusion Determination Reviews Explained.

3. General amendments 

Changes throughout the Heritage Act update certain statutory processes.

Changes clarify that:

  • all types of nomination refusals made by the Executive Director can be subject to a Heritage Council review (including nominations to include a place, object or land in the Heritage Register)
  • public submissions in response to Executive Director Recommendations can be made to the Heritage Council on all types of recommendations (to include or not include a place, object or land or to amend the Heritage Register)
  • if a place or object in the Heritage Register has multiple owners, only the owner affected by a permit can request the Heritage Council to review conditions imposed on the permit by the Executive Director

Changes also now allow the Heritage Council to:

  • use funds set aside as a security measure for a permit to ensure compliance with permit conditions
  • consider the matters in section 101(3) of the Heritage Act, during review of a decision on a permit application
  • delegate the removal of sites from the Heritage Inventory to the Executive Director.

Practical updates to some of the Heritage Council’s operations have also been made, including:

  • specifying the time-frames within which the Heritage Council must notify interested parties of a decision it has made
  • excluding the period between 24 December and 9 January from the public advertisement period on any draft World Heritage Strategy Plan
  • adding a notification requirement after the Heritage Council has made a determination on a site of archaeological value, so parties are informed