The term 'the National Estate' was coined by William Clough Ellis, a British architect in the 1940s. It was introduced into Australia when the Federal Government set up a Commission of Inquiry into the National Estate, headed by Hon. Mr Justice R.M. Hope. The inquiry aimed to "preserve and enhance the quality of the National Estate". Following the recommendations of this inquiry, the Australian Heritage Commission Act was passed in 1975 with the support of all political parties.
'The National Estate' is defined in the legislation as:
'' ... those places, being components of the natural environment of Australia, or the cultural environment of Australia, that have aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance or other special value for future generations as well as for the present community".
Both publicly and privately owned places form part of the National Estate. It encompasses places which are important to local communities, as well as those which are of regional or State significance. The National Estate also includes places which have national or international significance. Broad stretches of coastline, desert, forest and national parks, as well as isolated geological monuments and small areas which might provide habitats for endangered plant or animal species are part of the National Estate. It can cover whole villages and suburbs, streetscapes, single mansions, cattlemen's huts, railway yards and other reminders of the evolution of Australia's society and economy. Places of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander significance such as rock engravings, galleries of rock art, fish traps, carved trees, meeting places, ceremonial sites and reminders of early European settlement, such as mission stations, are part of Australia's National Estate.
The Australian Heritage Commission has a statutory obligation to identify the National Estate. It has established the Register of the National Estate to place on public record Indigenous, historic and natural places to assist in their management and conservation, and, in particular, their protection from potentially adverse Commonwealth actions.
During 2000-01, the number of places in the Register of the National Estate increased by a net 227 to 12,845. This compares with a net increase of 254 in 1999-2000. Details by State and type, and comparisons with the previous year, are shown in table 12.1.
More comprehensive statistics on the types of places on the Register of the National Estate can be found in the annual reports of the Australian Heritage Commission.
12.1 PLACES ON THE REGISTER OF THE NATIONAL ESTATE, By Number and Type
|New South Wales |
|Western Australia |
|South Australia |
|Northern Territory |
|Australian Capital Territory(a) |
|External Territories |
|(a) Includes Jervis Bay. |
Source: Australian Heritage Commission.