AACAI Policy on Volunteers

Volunteering is a great way to get experience in the practical side of archaeology and see how archaeology is conducted in the public sphere. AACAI encourages its members to assist in the provision of training opportunities within appropriate legal and educational frameworks. Some university courses require a certain amount of practical experience as a requirement of their courses. However, there are some legal matters that you should consider before engaging volunteers.
Under the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 some unpaid work arrangements are lawful and others are not. Depending on the nature of the arrangement, the person doing the work may be an employee and be entitled to be paid the legal minimum or award rate of pay for the type of work they’re doing, along with other minimum employment entitlements. Whether an unpaid work arrangement is lawful under the Fair Work Act 2009 depends on whether an employment relationship exists, or whether the arrangement involves a vocational (student) placement. In some circumstances where the project is for public benefit a volunteer relationship may be acceptable.
AACAI members are generally working in the commercial sphere, and so volunteer positions are not appropriate unless this is related to a defined formal training arrangement in conjunction with an appropriate educational institution, except some instances where AACAI members are contributing to a public or not-for-profit archaeological project where commercial and competitive tendering is not involved.
Work Experience is a form of work placement confined to secondary school students as part of a formal arrangement with the school.
Given the requirements of various heritage regulations that people undertaking archaeological work are suitably qualified it is not appropriate for AACAI members to engage work experience students in commercial projects. Work experience arrangements may still be acceptable in circumstances limited to formal arrangements with a secondary school, but not where it replaces paid employment and participants are not undertaking tasks which require set levels off skills and qualifications.
An employment relationship exists if there is an employment contract, whether written or a purely verbal agreement. For an employment contract to exist it must be clear that:

  1. The parties intend to create a legally binding employment relationship
  2. Employees are obligated to attend the workplace and perform work for the benefit of the business or organisation
  3. Employees expect to be paid for work
  4. There is a formal work structure (e.g. expected to work according to a regular roster)
  5. The person must not be performing the work as part of a business of their own
  6. Employment is for a longer period (n.b. this might be just a few days or weeks)

For a vocational placement certain conditions need to be met:

  1. There must be a placement
  2. There must be no entitlement to pay for the work the student undertakes
  3. The placement must be done as a requirement of an education or training course
  4. The course must be one that is government approved
  5. The placement is for a fixed period of time

A volunteer arrangement can be lawful if it is a vocational placement (see section above) or if no employment relationship is found to exist. In particular:

  1. The person must not be doing ‘productive work’ (for example excavating, sieving, cleaning or cataloguing artefacts)
  2. Work is undertaken for selfless purposes or for furthering a particular belief in the not-for-profit sector
  3. Parties do not intend to create a legally binding employment relationship
  4. Volunteers are under no obligation to attend the workplace or perform work
  5. Volunteers do not expect to be paid for work

AACAI members should only engage volunteers within the legal requirements of the Fair Work Act. Use of volunteers on a commercial excavation is only acceptable as a way of providing training and instruction to archaeology students. A volunteer should not undertake tasks normally the responsibility of a qualified person. Tasks undertaken by volunteers must be superfluous to the project requirements. Regardless of the character of the work-supervisors are required to comply with all employment law, work health and safety regulations and discrimination requirements and ensure appropriate workcover insurance.
Members of ACCAI should also advise any prospective archaeological volunteers that the arrangement meets the requirements of the Fair Work Act. A discussion from the Fair Work Ombudsman is here – https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/unpaidwork/ unpaid-work.

COVID-19: Safe Working for Cultural Heritage Fieldwork Policy

Further to the statement issued by the Australian Archaeological Association on the 29 April 2020 regarding support for Indigenous communities and our Indigenous colleagues during the COVD-19 pandemic, AACAI endorses the sentiments expressed in that statement.

Furthermore, AACAI:

  • Recognises that there are different levels of COVID-19 restrictions across the country which impact upon cultural heritage fieldwork, and that the situation across the country is constantly changing;
  • Urges our members to undertake cultural heritage fieldwork in a way that is safe for all of us – the archaeologists, the Indigenous stakeholders and other people with whom we work.  We and our families are all vulnerable.  We all have a duty to ensure that our working methods protect those around us.
  • Encourages the development of safe working practices and adherence to these.  Such working practices should include maintenance of safe working distances, providing hand-washing and sanitising materials, not sharing vehicles, equipment or hand tools, use of PPE and the regular cleaning of equipment.

It is AACAI’s policy that Indigenous stakeholders must be included in all aspects of cultural heritage, including fieldwork.  We advocate that members should consult with Indigenous stakeholders on safe working methods that are appropriate for them, to allow this participation. Where Covid-19 restrictions prevent the participation of Indigenous stakeholders in fieldwork, such fieldwork should be postponed unless permission to conduct fieldwork without the presence of the Indigenous stakeholders is provided by that community. We remind members to abide by our Code of Ethics and the AACAI Policy on Consulting with Aboriginal Communities:



National Executive Committee.  21 May 2020

  1. The Association recognises that Aboriginal sites are of significance to Aboriginal people as part of their heritage and as part of their continuing culture and identity.
  2. The Association recognises that Aboriginal communities should be involved in decision-making concerning Aboriginal sites. Aboriginal opinions, concerns and management recommendations should be presented alongside those of the archaeological consultant.
  3. The Association recognises that Aboriginal people have a right to be consulted about the intention to undertake archaeological work, to be consulted about the progress and findings of this work, and to be consulted about any recommendations arising from this work.
  4. The Association supports the practice of directly involving Aboriginal people in archaeological work, particularly fieldwork.
  5. The Association recognises that work undertaken by Aboriginal people on behalf of a member of the Association must be subject to appropriate remuneration in accordance with the Association’s recommended scale of fees, or, where appropriate, subject to remuneration above the Association’s fee scale where this has been derived from negotiations between the Member and the Aboriginal community.
  6. The Association recognises that the circulation or publication of the results of archaeological work must be sensitive to Aboriginal concerns about the disclosure of confidential information about sites.
  7. The Association recognises that assistance provided by Aboriginal people and communities should be acknowledged in subsequent written and verbal reports, publications and presentations.
  8. The Association recognises that information and documentation derived from archaeological work should be returned to relevant Aboriginal people and their communities.
  9. The Association recognises that consultation with Aboriginal communities should be via land councils, co-operatives or other organisations that are generally recognised as legitimately representing the interests and views of Aboriginal people in the relevant locality, area or region.

The recommended minimum fee scales cover general consultants, sub-consultants, specialists and archaeological assistants. AACAI recognises that the fee scale is referred to by people and organisations that are not consultant archaeologists but who have some need of estimating costs for a project or establishing payment scales for employees. While the rates may provide a useful guide for such matters they specifically do not cover minimum payments to waged/salaried employees. Other public sector wage scales may provide a more appropriate guide for such positions. The original basis for the development of the fee scale built in factors to compensate for the lack of long-term payment security, leave loading and other factors that are benefits that are generally enjoyed by waged and salaried staff. All rates listed are exclusive of GST.

The fee scale applies to short-term contracts, of less than 2 months or 320 hours duration. Rates for longer-term projects may be negotiated between the employee, consultant and client.

This rate applies to fully qualified archaeologists holding the primary responsibility for archaeological projects. Previously represented as a single minimum hourly rate, it is now represented as a minimum range to more accurately reflect the reasonable rate that a qualified experienced consultant archaeologist might charge. The range should not be taken to imply that consultants are restricted from charging higher rates. Generally, rates may vary depending on the specific skills and experience of the consultant and the nature of the work being undertaken. The lower end of the bandwidth is regarded as a recommended minimum rate.

This hourly rate is calculated at 80% of the recommended minimum rate for consultants or the rate negotiated between the consultant and sub-consultant, whichever is the greater. The category of sub-consultant is defined not only by the skills and experience of the individual but by the nature of the work undertaken. A sub-consultant is engaged to undertake parts of a contract awarded to another consultant. Overall responsibility for completion of the project lies with the principal consultant but the sub-consultant usually carries out a substantial part of the project independently without supervision. Simply having an ABN does not mean that a person is a ‘sub-consultant’.
Nothing in this fee scale should be taken to infer that a more qualified and experienced person should not from time to time be employed in a capacity of lesser responsibility. For example, an experienced and qualified archaeologist who normally works as an independent consultant might choose to work in a field assistant position to work with a colleague on a particularly interesting project. The hourly rate reflects the nature of the work being paid for and the minimum skills and experience necessary to successfully undertake that work.

Several categories of assistant are described and rates have seen set that reflect the complexity of the task and the skills and experience of the individual. These rates do not apply to waged positions and may not apply to jobs of more the 2 months (320 hours) duration. Fee scales for long-term projects may be negotiated. On a project of less than 2 months (320 hours) no qualified archaeologist should be employed on a contract basis for less than $29 per hour.

Specialist assistants are persons with specialist qualifications or experience in archaeology, for example the statistical analysis of Aboriginal stone artefacts. The specialist assistant should be able to command a higher hourly rate than other assistants, because he or she will normally prepare a written contribution, requiring interpretive or independent research skills. The role of the specialist assistant should be differentiated from the descriptive cataloguing and sorting of artefacts, which does not necessarily require interpretative or independent research skills.

Grade 1 Assistants are employed to work independently, their work should not need review or supervision, and they should supervise others without intervention.

Grade 2 Assistants should undertake site survey or recording, but their work should be reviewed or supervised. They may supervise the work of others, but under the review or supervision of a more qualified person.

Grade 3 Assistants should be supervised at all times in such tasks as site survey or recording. They should not supervise others.
It is expected that Grades 1-3 Assistant should have extensive previous experience in all or most of the tasks they are expected to undertake.

AACAI considers that it is appropriate to introduce an hourly rate for trainees. This is intended to provide opportunities for new graduates, as well as a rate that enables the consultant to increase training opportunities without prejudicing the overall viability of a project. Trainees should have an honours degree in archaeology or other field of scholarship, or equivalent qualifications, but may not have the extensive practical experience necessary to qualify as an assistant. It is the duty of the consultant to provide relevant tuition to the trainee, for example, in excavation, recording or site survey. The trainee should not supervise others.
Policy Last Updated: 24 December 2006

  1. RationaleThe purpose of the procedure for handling complaints against members is to assist the National Executive Committee (NEC) to handle such complaints in an equitable way, by providing a transparent process in the handling and investigation of complaints.All members of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. (AACAI) undertake to abide by the Association’s Code of Ethics, along with other policies, rules and codes as outlined in the constitution and its schedules, when they accept membership of the Association. Several times over recent years the NEC has dealt with complaints against individual members who, it has been alleged, have breached the Code of Ethics. In most cases these matters have been dealt with through a combination of negotiations and arbitration. Disturbingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, some complaints appear to have been motivated by an attempt to disrupt matters being appropriately dealt with elsewhere, such as in the Land and Environment Court of NSW. In such cases it appears that the making of a complaint against members (usually by a non-member) has been used as a tactic to attempt to discredit the member in court.Most complaints received by the Association about its members relate to perceived or actual breaches of the Association’s Code of Ethics. AACAI is committed to upholding its Code of Ethics and ensuring that Members abide by the Code, however more guidance is required on how and when complaints will be handled. The following procedure follows closely the procedure for complaints handling of other similar organisations, specifically the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) and Australia ICOMOS.Specifically, the procedure states that a compliant will not be accepted while the matter or a related matter is being dealt with in the courts.
  2. Allegations of a Breach of the Rules and Codes of the AssociationAt present Clause 38 of the Constitution of AACAI provides that disciplinary action may be taken against member of the Association.Specifically ‘Where the National Executive Committee is of the opinion that a member of the Association:
    1. Has refused or neglected to comply with a provision or provisions of the Objects or Rules or Codes of Conduct; or
    2. Has acted in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the Association; or
    3. Has been guilty of conduct unbecoming a member.

    There is little guidance, however, in the constitution about the process of handling and investigating the complaint before it reaches the stage of implementing disciplinary action. This current document is intended to be consistent with the Constitution, but to clarify the process between the point at which a complaint is received by the organisation and the imposition if necessary, of disciplinary action.

  3. The AACAI Code of EthicsThe AACAI Code of Ethics forms a schedule of the Association’s Constitution. All members (in all categories) of AACAI are required to commit to and abide by the Code of Ethics as a condition of their membership of the Association. A copy of the Constitution and Code of Ethics can be found on the Association’s website at www.aacai.com.au.
  4. When AACAI Will Not Take Action on a ComplaintThe Association’s Rules and Code of Ethics do not bind archaeologists who are not members of AACAI and AACAI cannot assist with complaints about non-members. Nor can AACAI assist with complaints that are related to matters outside the scope of the Constitution and associated Codes. AACAI will not investigate a complaint while any other attempt is being made in another forum (such as a court, tribunal or mediation) to resolve an issue relating to any of the same facts or circumstances.
  5. Consequences of Breaching the Rules and Codes of the AssociationUnder the Constitution the options open to the National Executive Committee to discipline a member are limited to:
    1. Reprimand the member;
    2. Suspend the member from membership of the Association for a specified period; or
    3. Expel the member from the Association.

    Clauses 38-47 of the Constitution set out how such disciplinary action takes effect and this involves a series of resolutions.

  6. Who Can Make an Allegation?An allegation of a breach of the Rules or Code of Ethics against an AACAI member can be made by a client, a member of the public, or another member of AACAI.
  7. Form of AllegationAny allegation must be in writing, addressed to the Secretary, name the member against whom the breach is alleged, and be signed and dated by the complainant. The allegation must also state where and when the breach is alleged to have occurred and the Clause of the Constitution or the Code of Ethics or other Rules or Policies alleged to have been breached, and must include sufficient documents or other information to explain the allegation.
  8. ConfidentialityAll allegations will be dealt with confidentially. Those who will know about the application will be the Secretary of the National Executive Committee (NEC) who receives the complaint, the President of AACAI (or his or her representative), the volunteer NEC member appointed by the President to conduct the investigation, the NEC Members if called upon to make a resolution on disciplinary action and the member who is the subject of the complaint.
  9. IndependenceAACAI will use its best endeavours to ensure that any people investigating or dealing with a complaint are unconnected with the allegation in any way that is likely to involve self interest, conflict of interest or bias.
  10. ProcedureWhen a complaint is received by the NEC, the Secretary will check whether the person named in the allegation was a member of the AACAI when the event or circumstance is alleged to have taken place. If so, the complaint will be acknowledged in writing, and the member concerned will also be notified in writing. Both parties will be asked to confirm that no other procedures outside the complaint to AACAI are in progress.AACAI prefers to resolve any complaint informally through negotiation, and will therefore seek to do this by referring the complainant to another member of AACAI (usually an NEC member unless a conflict of interest dictates otherwise) with whom the complaint can be discussed.If the complainant wishes to proceed with a formal allegation, the President will appoint an Assessor, who will be a member of the NEC or a senior member of AACAI (if a conflict with NEC members is involved), to investigate the complaint. If the Assessor considers that the allegation, if true, would constitute a breach of the Code of Ethics or the Constitution, the Assessor will write to the member who is the subject of the allegation and seek a written response. If, on the other hand, the Assessor does not consider that the allegation, even if true, would constitute a breach of the Code of Ethics or the Constitution, the Assessor will not investigate further.The Assessor will prepare a report on the investigation for the President. If after investigation the Assessor considers that a breach of the Code of Ethics or Constitution may have occurred, the President will bring the matter to the next meeting of the National Executive Committee to discuss any further action. The complainant will be informed in writing about the results of the investigation. Where the National Executive Committee agrees that a member:
    1. Has refused or neglected to comply with a provision or provisions of the Objects or Rules or Codes of Conduct; or
    2. Has acted in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the Association; or
    3. Has been guilty of conduct unbecoming a member,

    then the formal steps as outlined in the constitution in clauses 38-47 will be initiated.

    If the report of the Assessor concludes that a breach has not occurred the complainant will be informed in writing of that conclusion and that the matter has been deemed to have been dealt with under AACAI procedures.
    Policy Last Updated: 24 December 2006

If you are seeking work as an archaeological assistant then you are probably an Associate Member of AACAI. If you are not yet a member of the Association you should complete the Application Form. Most consulting archaeologists regularly employ assistants to help with fieldwork, artefact analysis, and archival research. Associate Members’ names and addresses are circulated with the Association’s Register of Consultants. Members of AACAI give preference of employment to other members. There is a Recommended Minimum Fee Scale for employees by which members are obliged to abide. On joining the Association a current Recommended Minimum Fee Scale and a copy of the Code of Ethics is provided. This information is designed to help recent graduates and other newcomers to the field who are looking for work as archaeological assistants. We hope it will help you to clarify your role as assistants and negotiate suitable employment conditions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It is important that employee and employer know what is expected of each other. It is often easy for other people to take a certain level of knowledge for granted, especially when they have been working in a particular field for a long time. As an assistant you are not expected to know everything and you should feel free to ask questions when in doubt. There are several points that you should clarify prior to accepting employment.

How much will I be paid?

The rate of pay should not be less than that shown in the Association’s Recommended Minimum Fee Scale and you should ascertain that you are being paid the rate suitable to the type of work/level of experience required.

When will I be paid?

For example, weekly, fortnightly, at the end of the project etc.

How long will the job last?

For example, a month, about a month, up to three months and so on.

What sort of work is involved?

For example, fieldwork, office work, physical environment.

What resources are supplied?

It is usual for the consultant to supply all field equipment required to complete the job. If you are required to supply a vehicle or computer or other equipment then you may be entitled to additional reimbursement. Special needs regarding food or medication must be discussed with the employer.

What costs are met by the consultant?

All reasonable costs incurred while working with the consultant are usually met by the consultant. The consultant then claims these back from their client. Such costs might include items such as accommodation, postage, photocopying etc. Assistants are advised to discuss costs with the employing consultant before incurring them. Appropriate clothing is usually the responsibility of the employee.

Are you covered by insurance?

Your employer is required by law to have Worker’s Compensation Insurance that will cover you.