Natural and cultural heritage
Jane L. Lennon
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
This section provides an understanding of training and participation in the heritage fields, including the number of people being trained in heritage management and conservation, those working in heritage agencies, with community groups, or participating in professional heritage organisations.
The number of professional employees in Commonwealth heritage agencies and Commonwealth managers of heritage places (such as Defence properties) has varied reflecting budget restrictions on staffing and policies of outsourcing to consultants. There have also been decreases in Queensland, while conversely increases in South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria. It is not known how many staff are professional graduates in disciplines like architecture, history, ecology or archaeology rather than general managers. The continuing decline in practical conservation skills in both the trades and the professions and the lack of training programmes has been noted by heritage agencies and New South Wales is addressing this as a priority. The small size of the Australian heritage market is seen as a contributing to the difficulty in maintaining a critical mass of specific heritage trades and skills (PC 2005, p. 18).
The provision of heritage advisors to local government in all states and territories, except Queensland and the Northern Territory, has resulted in cost-effective delivery of heritage conservation outcomes to local councils, property owners and managers. Across the nation, this huge increase from 2000 in coverage of heritage advisory services, generally using part-time advisors, shows the continuing conservation effort at the local level to protect a wide variety of built historic heritage. Despite the interest in national heritage as exemplified by the ninetieth anniversary in 2005 of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli, it is at the local government level that there is an urgent need for incentives and skills to protect heritage—an irony at a time of unprecedented wealth and affluence created in part by and seen in building development.
Membership of peak professional heritage organizations has remained static over the reporting period, despite the availability of graduates from the increased number of courses described in 2001. At January 2006 there were 14 universities across Australia offering 40 courses in cultural heritage subjects .
The number of Indigenous people employed in heritage conservation activities is partly a measure of use of skills and expertise that is distinct from direct economic employment. The numbers in government agencies are very small, with little increase since 2001, the exception being Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, which has maintained 12 Indigenous staff of its 23 staff over the period. Resource industries are employing increasing numbers, for example, Hamersley/RIO has 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage officers.
The Indigenous organisations survey reported a lack of skills amongst the Indigenous population to professionally manage protection of heritage sites; there are very few Indigenous archaeologists, cultural monitors, or heritage or cultural officers. Legal skills are required to represent Indigenous heritage interests and values where local government and developer interests conflict with Indigenous community interests.
The use of volunteers has increased, especially in museum and historic house management in cataloguing collections and guiding visitors to heritage places. This trend is also observed in physical conservation works such as those undertaken by ‘Hands on Heritage' teams. The National Trusts are almost all reliant on approximately 7000 volunteers, but the management of heritage places is dependant on volunteers who are ageing and subject to new occupational health and safety requirements and public risk insurances. This group is opting for a more active lifestyle in retirement and therefore has the potential to significantly swell volunteer numbers in the next decade.
In Western Australia, the Department of Indigenous Affairs has appointed 40 honorary wardens under s.50 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 to assist with site protection. There is no data for other states or territories.
Trends are as follows:
- Professional employment opportunities are static, despite the needs.
- There is a low participation rate by Indigenous people in professional heritage management.
- Heritage managers are reliant on volunteers.