The term 'the National Estate' was coined by William Clough Ellis, a British architect, in the 1940s. It was introduced into Australia in 1973 when the Federal Government set up a Commission of Inquiry into the National Estate, headed by Hon. Mr Justice RM 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 historical development of Australia's society and economy. Places of significance to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples, such as rock engravings, rock art galleries, fish traps, carved trees, meeting places and ceremonial sites are also part of Australia's National Estate, as are reminders of early European settlement, such as mission stations.
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 2001-02, the number of places in the Register of the National Estate increased by 96 to 12,941. This compares with an increase of 227 in 2000-01. Details by state or territory 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
|New South Wales|
|Australian Capital Territory(a)|
|(a) Includes Jervis Bay.|
Source: Australian Heritage Commission.