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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Press Conference, Hobart
Tuesday, 20 April 2004

Port Arthur nomination for National Heritage Listing

Dr David Kemp — Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage:

First of all, we're celebrating the story ... the many stories that have grown out of the Female Factory, and I want to just thank Sally (indistinct) and congratulate her for organising this.

This is very much, I think, how we should try to understand the significance of heritage in Australia. It's the start of many Australian stories, and underpins many Australian lives.

That's proven many times in various places around Australia. But these remarkable sites here in Tasmania - particularly, of course, the female prison, and what remains of that, and the matron's cottage that I'll say a bit more about in a moment - they have been residences and workplaces for many people who went on to have children and descendants who are now key parts of our great community and underpin Australian democracy.

And, of course, Port Arthur is the same. And Barry Jones will be saying something about Port Arthur in a few minutes and then I want to comment on that as well, because Port Arthur is one of our great heritage sites.

I've also taken the opportunity - and I'm sure you'll forgive me for this, because one of the announcements is quite specific to this state - but take the opportunity to make an announcement for the whole of Tasmania for the Cultural Heritage Projects Program.

This is a program of grants to help restore decrepit, ageing heritage places in need of restoration, and to provide those relatively small but important amounts of money which, very frequently, local volunteers and local communities just find invaluable in bringing these places up to a standard where they're happy to invite people to come to them and be present.

Perhaps I should say before I make these announcements that I was interested to read in The Financial Review yesterday, and I think The Mercury and Examiner this morning, that Tasmania rates very highly in world terms as a preferred tourist destination. I see that it's been given third ranking and I noticed, in fact, that there were three places on second ranking, but let's call, anyway, the Tasmanian location first.

And what that means is that Tasmania rates well above the great pyramids of Giza and places like Venice and the Eiffel Tower as a place to visit. And people around the world are increasingly seeing Tasmania as a place which is absolutely unique. And it's unique, really, from my point of view, in two ways. One is the incredible natural environment, and natural world heritage that you have here in Tasmania. And the other is the remarkable built and cultural heritage. So many Australian stories are rooted right here in Tasmania. And they begin here and they've grown out and flowered and produced such a wealth of experience for the Australian community.

And Port Arthur stands out as one of those remarkable sites, but more about Port Arthur later. This morning, in announcing the cultural heritage projects grant, the one that I particularly want to place weight on here in this location is a grant of twenty-eight thousand dollars for the restoration and work on the façade of the Matron's Cottage and ...


I saw Peter when I was here last time. I want to ... it's not just a lovely building that is, and sort of full of history and redolent with atmosphere, but just how well it is presented. And the matron took us around and I see, really, the standard that she set has been adopted by fellow (indistinct) here as well. But this is the place where literally you have managed to help us walk back into history, and so I congratulate you very much on the work that you've done.

I want to refer to my notes for the other grants, because these are three significant grants for other places here in Tasmania. We're going to be allocating a hundred and fifteen thousand dollars for restoration works to the interior and exterior of Rotten Row (ph.sp.) at the former convict out-station at Koonya. This area is a highly authentic example of a mid-nineteenth century residence for a colonial military officer. The funding is going to be used to repair the site drainage for archaeological work and to prepare a conservation management plan.

I'm also pleased to announce separate grant allocations of forty-six thousand dollars, five hundred and fifty-nine thousand dollars towards works at the ruins of the Saltwater River probation station and medical officers quarters at Salter River respectively. And this funding is going to be used to develop a conservation management plan and to repair and maintain the remaining fabric of the ruins.

At the other end of the state, on Badger Island in Bass Strait, we're giving thirty-seven thousand six hundred and seventy-five dollars to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre to identify and document a range of historic Aboriginal places on the island and to improve related conservation planning.

Now, these are some of the seven sites around Australia ... around Tasmania that will receive a total of three hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars, seven hundred and twenty-eight. Other sites include Woolmers Estate at Longford and Granny Rhodes Cottage at Richmond.

As I say, these grants are to help very dedicated people to preserve Australia's heritage.

This year the Australian government has launched — with the Prime Minister launching it in Sydney — a program called Distinctively Australian. And Distinctively Australian implements the first national heritage regime that we have had in this country, a regime that will provide a national list of our most significant heritage places, and will provide the legal protections and financial resources to assist in making sure that those places of unique national heritage significance are preserved for future generations.

A place that I've long wanted to see on that national list is Port Arthur and I'm going to call now on Barry Jones to see if he's got anything to say to us ...


... about whether there's any actions that could be taken to put Port Arthur on the list.


Barry Jones - Chairman of the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority

That was very perceptive of you ...


... I think I might be able to help. Anyway, Minister, Peter Ray (ph.sp.), Senator Abetz and friends, it is wonderful to be here and I particular congratulate the minister on the success of getting the legislation through which provides for the new system of national listing. And that national listing will be an obvious pre-condition to properties going ahead for World Heritage nomination, because you wouldn't expect a World Heritage nomination to go ahead unless it was there up in lights in the new national listing.

And here in Tasmania there is this extraordinary combination of pristine environment and unparalleled record of our convict history. If you look at the ... those factors which shaped the development of Australia, when you reflect that we've, you know, we start off with the starting point of the land and then two thousand generations of Aboriginal experience and then ten generations of European settlement beginning with the convicts' experience which, particularly here in Tasmania, shaped the development of the area, but it also paradoxically lead to the development of free institutions and a different ... and a completely new characteristically Australian way of looking at the world. And it's ironic ... I mean, people often forget that Tasmania, with ... or Van Diemen's Land, with its small size, accounted for about forty-four per cent of the total convict intake, that we think of it ... that it's ... that proportionally, the convicts' experience was more significant here than anywhere else, by far.

And down in Tas... down in the Tasman Peninsula, you've got a combination of sites. Port Arthur itself, as you probably know, Minister, that Port Arthur is about to take responsibility for the Saltwater River and ... but, of course, we're interested in the whole of the Tasman Peninsula. But we hope that when we go ahead with a serial nomination for convict sites for the World Heritage listing, we would certainly hope and expect for the Female Factory at Cascades to be a significant part of that.

Now, just before I ...


... just before ... because I know you can't have too long on this. Two things: I want to hand over to you our nominations which we got together very quickly with the assistance of Mary Maggs (ph.sp.) after you started speaking and ...


... and we think a very powerful case can be put there. I want to acknowledge the work of Mary Maggs, who facilitated the nominations with key staff from (indistinct). We think that we've completed a comprehensive state-of-the-art nomination because we see how important the national listing process is. So I hand it over to you, Minister, and I know you'll look after it.

Thank you very much.


Thank you very much.





Barry, I can see I was right ...


... and thank you very much for this nomination and I congratulate you and the Port Arthur historic site management authority for putting this together.

Just very quickly, flipping through it — and this is genuinely the first time that I've had a chance to see the documentation associated with the nomination — it's clear that this is an extraordinarily thorough and well-documented nomination for this site and it's one that I, as Minister, will certainly be asking the Australian Heritage Council to move through with as much expedition as possible, because we want to see this site given high priority in the national listings.

This is one of Australia's most significant sites. As Barry says, it's one of a series of sites that we would like to bring together in a serial nomination. And I'm sure, so far as national listing is concerned, the Australian Heritage Council will want to consider how it goes about this process of serial listing, because this is undoubtedly the way to move forward to World Heritage nomination.

And I personally am very keen to see us move Port Arthur. Probably, I think Norfolk Island, which is another remarkable site, and other key convict sites, and hear what Barry has said about the Female Factory here at Cascade [sic].

These sites together could make, I think, a very powerful nomination, and it's my intention as Minister to move this through the national process as quickly as we can, because this is, without question, the pre-requisite now for world heritage. If we don't have a site on our national list then the World Heritage committee isn't going to be very impressed when we put it forward for world heritage nomination.

So let's get it onto the national list as quickly as possible, and then let's move ahead to world heritage nomination for Port Arthur as one of these key sites.

The other thing I would very much like to just emphasise again is the enormous importance of these sites to the whole Australian story, to the lives that have started here to the experiences that have been transmitted from generation to generation. I'm quite a keen family history buff myself and I know the strange mathematics of genealogy are that in every generation the chance of having a convict ancestor doubles; that people who don't have convict ancestors have children who do because their spouse has got someone who traces their life back to a convict origin.

And the time will come when pretty well every Australian whose been here for several generations will have an ancestor who in one way or another traces back here or traces back to Port Arthur or one of these sites. And we can all, I think, then take a huge interest in this story which binds us together increasingly as a community, as the generations go by.

I want to thank Shirley, particularly, for her hospitality here this morning and the hospitality that I know she's planning to provide; Peter, I want to thank you very much as chairman of this site for the remarkable way in which you have been able to present it up till now; Barry, thank you for your leadership at Port Arthur and for all of those who helped you on the board. I think that this is a wonderful contribution to Australia and it will give me the greatest pleasure to take it forward to national listing.

Thank you.

Doorstop Interview
Cascade Female Factory, Hobart, Tasmania
20 April, 2004


How likely, do you think, is the nomination of Port Arthur?

David Kemp - Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage:

Well, once it's on the national list, we will have fulfilled the key prerequisite, because we've got to list it nationally, first. I'm very confident that a well-prepared submission for World Heritage for Port Arthur, in series with other convict sites, would be successful. I think we've got some remarkable heritage here, in world terms, and of course it's universal values which count for World Heritage, and Port Arthur is part of a very significant movement of peoples across the world.

So Port Arthur has the universal values, with sites like Norfolk Island. They're probably the two major sites in Australia of our convict heritage. I'm very enthusiastic, as minister, to move Port Arthur towards World Heritage nomination as quickly as possible.


(Indistinct) Bob Brown; he says we're taking the soft option, and he said Recherche Bay, and the Tarkine should be nominated instead.


Oh well, look, I don't accept that for a moment. In fact, Recherche Bay I understand is probably already been nominated. It ... let me start that again. Recherche Bay has been nominated, I know, for the national list. And it's clearly a very significant site in Australian terms. Whether it is going to be part of a World Heritage nomination would have to be considered. Australia is permitted one World Heritage nomination a year, and at the moment we have the Royal Melbourne Exhibition Building in Melbourne up before the World Heritage Committee. That's the first piece of built heritage that Australia has ever put forward. I'm hopeful that that will be successful, but we'll have to wait and see how the assessment turns out. But I have no doubt that a very well prepared nomination for Port Arthur would be successful for World Heritage.


You'd disagree that anything contentious would not be nominated? Bob Brown (indistinct)?


Oh no, look, anyone can nominate for the national list, but nothing will go forward for World Heritage nomination until it has been approved for the national list, as an item of national heritage significance. So, from now on, because we now have the national list, it will be essential to nominate any item for World Heritage first of all to the national list. And of course anyone can nominate, and I invite anyone to make a nomination.


What criteria do you think Port Arthur has that will make it (indistinct)?


Well, Port Arthur is undoubtedly the best preserved site. It's a site with a very well documented story. It's a site that is magnificently presented now. It's a site that so many Australians trace their family story back to. And it's a site which really represents the convict system as it developed. It was quite a sophisticated approach that was taken to the convict system here in Tasmania, particularly by Governor Arthur. And that has significance in world terms. So it has the universal values that we're looking for, for a successful World Heritage nomination.


What about on another issue. You opened up the Coast to Coast Conference this morning. We've got a lot of developments happening around the state; are you happy that they will meet, sort of, Coast to Coast criteria? Are you aware of any (indistinct)?


Well, the only point I would make is that it's very important, when we have coastal developments that they take into account the natural values of those coasts that we want to preserve. And undoubtably our urban centres are placing a lot of pressure on our coastal development, and it is the responsibility of local authorities and state authorities with the planning responsibilities to make sure that those communities are developed in a sustainable way.


Minister, just quickly, one more question. What is the timeline involved here? How soon will we know if Port Arthur is (indistinct)?


Well, it would have to be put forward first, and that involves the preparation of the case. And that case is going to take some time to prepare, because we envisage it as a serial nomination that would include Port Arthur. I believe it probably should include Norfolk Island. But I have to say at the moment, that is a matter for the Norfolk Island community to determine. It's not a matter that the Australian government would dictate. It's a matter for that community. And it should include other sites. The Female Factory at Cascades is a very important site that probably should go forward with Port Arthur, because the Cascades Female Factory was the principle locus for the women convicts. And it's important ... Port Arthur was a prison for men and boys, the Cascades Female Factory was a prison for women. And so to get the whole picture, you really need to put the Cascades Female Factory in as well.

Preparation of that case is going to take time. Australia is allowed one nomination for World Heritage a year, so we'll have to see how quickly that case can be prepared, but I believe that it's possible to push that case ahead very strongly and quickly; people have been working on it. So I would like to see Port Arthur go forward in the next two or three years to World Heritage nomination.

End of segment

Commonwealth of Australia