Natural and Cultural Heritage Theme Report
Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Jane Lennon, Jane Lennon and Associates Pty Ltd, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06752 3
Under the dusty print of hobnailed boot,
Strewn on the floor the papers still assert
In ornamental gothic, swash italics
And bands of printer's flowers (traditional)
Mixed in a riot of typographic fancy,
This is the Western Star, the Farmer's Guide,
The voice of Progress for the Nyngle District.
Environmental indicators reported on in this section.
|NCH G.8||Community awareness of and attitudes towards heritage places and objects and their conservation|
The number of/proportion of traditional language used in:
(a) broadcast media: radio, TV, published books, magazines, cinema, WWW, distinguishing:
(i) programs aimed at speakers;
(ii) programs aimed at a general audience;
(b) signage in public places (streets, parks), advertisements
|NCH IL.6||Number of approvals of geographic names, including map sheet names, using indigenous place names|
Community awareness and attitudes are an important element of society's responses regarding heritage places and objects and the conservation of significant values. As this is such a vast field for assessment, the issues investigated were public attitudes towards heritage conservation and practices, awareness through involvement, and awareness of Indigenous heritage.
There have been no systematic nation-wide surveys concerned with assessing attitudes to or involvement in Indigenous, natural and historic heritage places during the reporting period. Data from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys and competitions described below have therefore been used as surrogates for estimating community attitudes over the period. However, periodic community attitude surveys - based on standard sets of questions designed to provide quantitative estimates of trends in community awareness and attitudes towards natural, Indigenous, and historic heritage places and objects and the conservation of their significant values - are needed.
ABS surveys conducted over the last decade provide a context for assessing public concern about and involvement in environmental issues, including heritage place conservation. Over the decade, the proportion of people expressing environmental concerns remained about 70%.
With regard to the quality of the environment over the last 10 years, the following results were obtained (ABS 1998):
- 46% of people thought the quality of the environment had declined
- 26% of people thought the quality of the environment had stayed the same
- 24% of people thought the quality of the environment had improved.
A study conducted in 1999 by Irving Saulwick and Associates for the Melbourne Water Corporation and the Australian Conservation Foundation surveyed a random sample of 600 Victorian people aged between 16 and 24 years. On every question a significant majority favoured the environmental or conservation position. Four out of five young Victorians favour protecting the environment even if it means some reduction in economic growth; 94% thought that individuals could do something to help improve the environment, and only 6% had not taken part in any of the conservation activities asked about. They defined the most important environmental problems facing Australia today as deforestation (16%), protecting the ozone layer (14%), general pollution (12%) and water pollution (10%). Heritage was not specifically mentioned in the questions or responses.
This is mirrored in a survey undertaken in 1999 by the ABS as part of the Population Survey Monitor program. The topics rotate every three years so that this survey can be compared with that of 1994. Environmental problems ranked across Australia in all age groups as the fifth most important social issue (9%) after health (30%), crime (26%) education (17%) and unemployment (13%). However, people in the 18 to 24 year age group ranked environmental problems as the most important social issue. Some 29% of all Australians reported that air pollution is the environmental problem of greatest concern. Again, heritage was not specifically mentioned, although some issues such as destruction of wildlife and trees and inappropriate urban development could be considered as surrogates for this (see Table 32).
|Destruction of trees/ecosystems||21.8%||25.6%|
|Destruction of wildlife||9.6%||13.3%|
|Conservation of resources||7.3%||8.5%|
|Irresponsible urban development||5.6%||7.8%|
Source: ABS (1999).
In 2000 the Australian Heritage Commission and the National Trust commissioned Roy Morgan Research to undertake the Heritage Revival Project, which had three main objectives:
- to develop effective communication and marketing,
- to provide a benchmark against which achievement can be measured objectively, and
- to provide data with which to advocate for heritage with important stakeholders.
Respondents were asked about dominant images associated with 'heritage'. Responses included old buildings, people/pioneers, early settlers/convicts, Indigenous Australians, family history, and historic sites such as Cook's Cottage. Images evoked by the word 'conservation' were the environment, rainforest, water, animals, the land, seashores, saving everything, old churches and other buildings, and disrespect and destruction of the natural environment. When asked how important economic considerations should be when decisions are made about heritage, 19% of respondents said they should be of high importance, 60% of medium importance and 19% of low importance. Over 50% of respondents had visited a heritage place in the previous year and 93% thought that school children benefited from visiting such places, while 49% thought that the Commonwealth government should be responsible for maintaining and looking after sites of national heritage significance.
All respondents agreed that looking after our heritage is more important than it was five years ago, but that the main reason why other people see heritage as being less important than five years ago is because there are so many important issues and not enough money to go around.
It proved impossible to collate press coverage of place-specific conservation issues during the reporting period. However, some places featured for many months in all levels of media reporting, such as Kakadu (threats from uranium mining), Sydney Harbour foreshores (transfer of Commonwealth-owned land to publicly accessible uses), Western Australian old growth forests (protection from timber harvesting), and Fraser Island (overuse by four-wheel-drive vehicles).