Heritage Advisory Services: Towards best practice - Introduction

Elizabeth Vines and Katrina McDougall, Conservation and Heritage Consultants

Towards Best Practice

1 Introduction

1.1 Background

This report has been commissioned by the Australian Heritage Commission and the State Heritage Branch of the South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources and was funded from the national component of the National Estate Grants Program and the South Australian State Heritage Fund.

Heritage Advisory Services were first established in Victoria in 1977 and since that time have developed across Australia (with the exception of Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory which do not provide Heritage Advisory Services). The concept of Heritage Advisory Services was initially modelled on the Heritage Officer position associated with Conservation Areas in the United Kingdom, but over the past 20 years has developed as an effective Australian initiative. However, apart from informal networking by Government heritage authorities, there has never been a coordinated approach to the running of these services nor have national standards or requirements for Advisers been outlined. There are currently differences between the States and Territories in the management and funding of these programs. Differences in service provisions also exist across the States and Territories and the role and expectations of heritage advisers vary considerably between areas.

Heritage Advisory Services have generally been dependent on the State component of the National Estate Grants Program for funding in full, or later in part, as they developed and State funds became available. The exception to this is Victoria, which has never used funding from the National Estate Grants Program, where the program has been funded through the State Heritage Fund.

The use of Commonwealth funding has fulfilled one of the stated aims of the Australian Heritage Commission that Federal funding should assist communities in the management of heritage assets in local areas. The face to face contact of the Heritage Adviser with the local community is a major element of any Heritage Advisory Service and the withdrawal of Federal support for these services through the removal of State grants has affected the feasibility of continuing the State Heritage Advisory Services at their current level in some States. However, Heritage Advisory Services in New South Wales and Victoria will not be adversely affected as these services are no longer dependent on federal funding.

1.2 Brief and methodology

The purpose of this report (as outlined in the study brief to consultants) is to review and evaluate these services and to make recommendations as follows:

  • determine what should be provided by Heritage Advisory Services to:
    • the community
    • local government
    • State and Territory Governments
    • the Commonwealth Government
  • establish nationally agreed uniform standards or guidelines for Heritage Advisory Services in all States and Territories to ensure that an equally high quality of service is provided across the country
  • set out reporting requirements for heritage advisers
  • propose methods of auditing, evaluating and assessing performance and outcomes, particularly in relation to the state of the built environment
  • review the effectiveness of the services currently provided
  • produce a practical working document for future reference.

During the preparation of this report the consultants have consulted with the Australian Heritage Commission and all State and Territory heritage authorities on the current status and practice of Heritage Advisory Services. This has been achieved through a series of meetings and workshops which have been held in most capital cities throughout Australia. The views of local government, heritage advisers and National Trust operations have also been sought via these workshops and questionnaires which have been compiled, and during the consultancy these have been evaluated and the feedback and appropriate recommendations incorporated into this report. A summary of the workshops is available from the Australian Heritage Commission.

Note: This report also comments on National Trust, State (Public Works Department) and local government advisory services not coordinated by the State Government’s advisory programs. However, the major focus is on those services provided and coordinated by State Government Heritage Offices.