Australia's heritage draws on its cultural and natural environments and the history of its people.
Cultural heritage includes historic places of significance, such as: old towns, and residential and commercial buildings; Indigenous ceremonial grounds and rock art galleries; shipwrecks; streetscapes; as well as paintings, objects, books, aircraft and natural history specimens. Increasingly what was formerly intangible, such as traditions, customs and habits, is being recorded and documented in photographs, films, tapes and digital records - these also add to Australia's cultural heritage.
Natural heritage refers to natural features, sites or landscapes that are significant because of their ecosystems, biodiversity or geodiversity, or because of their scientific, social, aesthetic or life-support value to present and future generations of people. Extensive areas of coastline, forests, wetlands and deserts are included in national parks, nature reserves and wilderness areas. Many smaller sites are important habitats for native flora and fauna, enabling the conservation of threatened species. Many natural places are significant to Indigenous communities for cultural reasons.
Conservation of heritage places involves identifying them, surveying their values, and classifying and managing them. These functions are shared between all levels of government and their statutory authorities, with assistance from academic and professional bodies, individuals, community conservation organisations such as the national trusts, and conservation councils in each state and territory.
The Australian Government focuses on the assessment and protection of places of world and national heritage significance and on heritage under its control. The statutory provisions for national and Commonwealth heritage were inserted into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) on 1 January 2004. The legislation establishes procedures to identify, conserve and protect places of national heritage significance, provides for the identification and management of Commonwealth heritage places, and establishes an independent expert body, the Australian Heritage Council, to advise the Minister on the listing and protection of heritage places.
The National Heritage List has been established to protect places of outstanding heritage significance to Australia. The list presents and protects the places that best tell the story of our unique continent, the development of our nation and the evolution of our distinctively Australian character and national identity. The first three places were listed in July 2004 and over 30 other nominations for National Heritage Listing were being assessed at that time. The list will include natural, historic and Indigenous places.
Another new list, the Commonwealth Heritage List, specifies places of heritage value which are owned or leased by the Australian Government. Australian Government-owned places include telegraph stations, defence sites, migration centres, customs houses, lighthouses, national institutions such as Old Parliament House, memorials, islands and marine areas. In June 2004, 336 places of heritage value were named on the new Commonwealth Heritage List.
Other major Australian Government heritage activities include the nomination of sites for World Heritage listing, and the protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. At 30 June 2004, there were 15 Australian places on the World Heritage List.
The Register of the National Estate, accessible at <http://www.deh.gov.au/heritage/index.html>, is a list of important natural, Indigenous and historic places throughout Australia, from local to national significance, and both publicly and privately owned. During 2003-04 the number of places on the Register of the National Estate increased by 36 to 13,129. Details by state or territory and type of place, and comparisons with the previous year are shown in table 12.1.
All states and territories maintain lists or registers of heritage places that have particular importance to the people of the state or territory. There is also a register of historic shipwrecks in Australian waters, and heritage registers or lists are maintained by many local governments and the National Trust.
The Australian Heritage Directory, at <http://www.heritage.gov.au>, provides public access to the National Heritage List, Commonwealth Heritage List, World Heritage List, Register of the National Estate, state and territory historic Heritage Lists, and the Australian National Shipwreck Database.
12.1 PLACES ON THE REGISTER OF THE NATIONAL ESTATE
|New South Wales|
|Australian Capital Territory(a)|
|(a) Includes Jervis Bay.|
Source: Department of the Environment and Heritage.