It is often assumed that places of cultural significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are protected under cultural heritage legislation such as the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 in Queensland. Such Acts are improvements on previous policies, which all but neglected Aboriginal cultural heritage. Nevertheless, the aims of policies developed at wider geographic scales, such as States within the Australian system, continue to be disconnected from the experiences of some local Traditional Owners. In this paper, we examine conflicts between non-local policy and on-ground management decisions for Aboriginal cultural heritage in peri-urban Queensland. We focus on the challenges of local Traditional Owners in peri-urban landscapes, basing our discussion on recent experiences conducting research on Indigenous land management in southeast Queensland. We examine three case studies: one in which colonial heritage values were prioritised over existing Aboriginal cultural heritage values, a second where local government failed to support a private landholder’s attempt to identify and protect a cultural heritage site, and a third where a cultural heritage site was protected but in a way that restricts the continuation of cultural practices. Developing more productive and equitable relationships between Traditional Owners and non-Indigenous decision makers, with regards to Aboriginal cultural heritage, requires new locally developed processes for engagement and we suggest how this could be achieved.