For the first time in Australia’s history, a national guide for identifying and protecting unmarked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graves has been released.

The initiative, driven by the community and funded by the Commonwealth, involves a toolkit to help protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graves and cemeteries.

Tweed-Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Leweena Williams said the project was born out of a sense of cultural responsibilities.

“You are taught very early about your cultural responsibilities,” she said.

“This is part of that, taking care of ancestral remains.

“It’s also understanding your place in that cultural responsibility – when you are meant to be involved and when you are meant to take a step back and others take responsibility.”

The national guide provides a step-by-step process to locate and protect graves and cemeteries and has already been used to locate more than 1,000 grave sites in Cape York.

The guide includes information about oral history research and historic archives, the role of archaeology and soil, as well as landform studies in assessing grave sites.

It includes non-invasive investigation techniques for locating graves such as ground penetrating radar, and management tools for protection and interpretation.

Tjungundji Traditional Owners aunty Maria Pitt and aunty Diane Nicholls-Pitt wrote the guide’s foreword