Writing a heritage strategy - document requirements

Commonwealth agencies that own or control places with heritage values must prepare a heritage strategy for the protection and management of that place.

To help agency representatives understand how to write a heritage strategy, we have listed document requirements with explanations, supplementary reference materials, examples, charters and toolkits.

The regulations state:

1. A strategy must include:

Requirement a: a statement of the agency's objective for management of its heritage places

The clearest way for an agency to recognise its heritage management responsibilities is to include them in its corporate plan as an objective. Wording of the objective may be as simple as:

'The [agency] recognises its responsibility to identify and care for the heritage property in its control, consistent with current best practice in conservation and property management.'

Requirement b: a description of how the heritage strategy operates within the agency's corporate planning framework

The executive of the agency must ensure that the corporate plan, at the relevant program level, covers management of its heritage properties. In addition, corporate budgeting and financial reporting processes (including annual reports) should include, and make transparent, an appropriate budget to manage property with heritage values.

Requirement c: a list of key positions within the agency who are responsible for heritage matters

The strategy must identify relevant personnel and their roles in identifying and managing heritage values, those responsible for decisions, approvals and actions, and those responsible for reviewing and reporting to the Minister (see also Requirement g).

Requirement d: an outline of a process for consultation and liaison with other government agencies on heritage matters

The strategy must identify relevant state and Commonwealth legislation concerning the natural and cultural heritage environment. The relevant agency must identify and establish key contacts within each agency that administers the relevant Acts. It is also strongly recommended that the strategy should similarly identify contacts in the planning department(s) of the relevant local government(s). A checklist for approvals and/or consultation requirements can be a useful administrative tool.

Requirement e: an outline of a process for consultation and liaison with the community on heritage matters, including, in particular, a process for consultation and liaison with Indigenous stakeholders on Indigenous heritage matters

The agency needs to consult all people and organisations with interests in the property's values and use, especially when developing the strategy and management plans (refer to section 3b below). Protecting Local Heritage Places is a useful aid to develop a community involvement plan.

The benefits of consultation include not just additional knowledge or experience of a property but also assistance in resolving conflict prior to commitment to a management regime. Community involvement should start with a consultation plan, which includes consultation with Indigenous people - if a place appears to have heritage values for Indigenous people, steps for effective consultation can be found in Ask First: A guide to respecting Indigenous heritage places and values.

An investigation of the Native Title status of the place is recommended.

Find out more from the National Native Title Tribunal  - free call 1800 640 501.

Requirement f: an outline of a process for resolution of conflict arising from the assessment and management of Commonwealth heritage values

The strategy needs to address the possible conflicts that may arise from the management of the heritage values of places, document a conflict resolution process. If the matter can be mediated, the strategy should identify the way in which the mediator would be selected or identify the person that will conduct the mediation.

Requirement g: an outline of processes for monitoring, reviewing and reporting on the implementation of an agency's heritage strategy

The strategy must provide for regular monitoring, review and reporting on the conservation of Commonwealth heritage values. It must include a timetable for the review process over the life of the strategy, identifying who is responsible for the review and reporting to the Minister - see (e) above. It is important also to set in place mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the success of the strategy.

2. A strategy must include matters relating to identification and assessment of Commonwealth heritage values, including the following:

Requirement a: an outline of the process for identifying and assessing the Commonwealth heritage values of all agency property

Each Commonwealth agency needs to be aware of the extent of heritage property under its control. If it has not already done so recently, it must undertake an inventory program to identify and assess its Commonwealth heritage values.

Australia's natural and cultural heritage comprises the components of the environment that have aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance or other special value for future generations as well as for the present community. Places are assessed against criteria for Commonwealth heritage values (Sub-regulation 10.03A (2) of the Regulations)

Requirement b: a statement of the timeframes for the completion of the agency's heritage strategy:


  • program for heritage identification and assessment
  • register of Commonwealth places with Commonwealth heritage values
  • report to the Minister, that includes details of the program and a copy of the register.

The strategy must outline the details of the program, how it will be completed and who will be responsible.

3. A strategy must include matters relating to the management of Commonwealth heritage values, including the following:

Requirement a: a description of how the agency's heritage places register will be maintained, updated and made accessible to the public

An agency's heritage places register should be kept in electronic format. If an agency manages a large number of heritage properties, it may find efficiencies in the use of database software.

The register should be accessible to all property management staff, including those responsible for property maintenance. Once data is entered, it should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. One way to approach this can be found in the Department of Defence draft paper, Defence Heritage Toolkit.

Requirement b: a statement of the timeframe for preparing management plans for the agency's Commonwealth heritage places

The statement should include a section on roles and responsibilities to identify who is required to complete the plans and who has authority to approve the final product. The timeframe should consider any works or major changes proposed for properties with Commonwealth heritage values. Management plans would be a priority for these places.

The management plan can provide guidance to new works and identify options to conserve the heritage values of the property while still providing for the changes required.

Note: A management plan can include more than one place - i.e. a separate plan is not necessarily required for each place with heritage values (see section 341W).

Requirement c: an outline of the existing use of heritage places by the agency

Document the existing uses of the property and determine whether there is a conflict between its heritage significance and its existing use and/or proposed new use.

Requirement d: an outline of current or expected development, works, disposal or other proposals that may affect Commonwealth heritage values

A heritage strategy should cover the management requirements, the physical condition, and heritage considerations of properties that may be subject to development, disposal or other proposals with consequences for the Commonwealth heritage values. An example is Section 7 of the draft Defence Heritage Toolkit. It is important to note that some development works may have to be referred under the Act. Separate guidelines and provisions apply. Find out about the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Requirement e: an outline of the process to ensure that Commonwealth heritage values are considered in the agency's planning for future development, works, divestment or other proposals

Identify heritage issues early in the project planning to ensure proposals for development and other significant changes do not destroy or degrade heritage values. Consult the Heritage Division of the Department of the Environment and Water Resources, or seek advice from a heritage consultant to help identify options for managing changes while protecting the heritage values of the property. The heritage strategy should outline how heritage values will be included in the agency's property planning processes, and the consultation arrangements for each stage of planning (see (e) and (g) above).

Develop a management plan for the property to ensure its heritage values are conserved. The accepted methodology for conservation management plans for historic places is outlined in the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter and in Dr J S Kerr's Conservation Plan. The Australian Natural Heritage Charter documents the contents of a management or conservation plan for natural places. These documents should also be referred to for the development of the heritage strategy. For Indigenous places refer to both the Burra Charter and Ask First.

Management plans can guide major changes to places to ensure heritage values are conserved. As noted at section 3(b) above, the timeframe to prepare management plans of places on the Commonwealth heritage places register should be included in the heritage strategy. The Regulations outline the matters to include in a management plan, and another guide addresses the accreditation process for management plans (see Schedule 7A).

Requirement f: a plan and budget for the maintenance and long-term conservation of Commonwealth heritage values

The budget for the heritage management plan must be reconciled with (and made transparent in) an agency's audited annual report. The plan should also identify the relevant line area that would provide first point of contact for further enquiries.

Requirement g: an outline of the process by which the success of the agency in conserving Commonwealth heritage values will be monitored and reviewed

An agency must review its heritage strategy every three years and report to the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (the Minister) on the review. To facilitate its process of triennial reviews, the agency should establish benchmarks against which it can measure success in conserving the heritage values of properties under its ownership or control.

Monitoring will also allow for a review of actions, facilitation of ongoing data collection, and guidance in the modification of management plans to achieve required conservation outcomes. Although management plans should include programs for periodic review, these programs should be flexible enough to cover unforeseen situations when important new information or data may become known thus requiring changes to management actions.

4. A strategy must include matters relating to Commonwealth heritage training and promotion, including the following:

Requirement a: A program for training of agency staff about Commonwealth heritage obligations and best practice heritage management

Clarify the scope of training needs for heritage property identification and management by linking and identifying it to the relevant corporate objectives.

Approaches to defining training needs and outcomes, as well as sample modules, are documented in the Draft Heritage Asset Management Manual.

b) a program for promoting community awareness of Commonwealth heritage values, as appropriate

A program could include publication, public education and awareness initiatives.

Further information


These references outline the current standards expected in heritage work.