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
Although the situation is improving, components of Australia's distinctive heritage are still being lost due to the inadequate identification and protection of heritage places and objects.
Heritage - people have lived in Australia for at least 50 000 years; heritage places and objects provide cultural and physical links with the past, with the history of human habitation, and with the evolution of plants, animals and the physical landscape - heritage defines our 'sense of place'.
Heritage places - in 1996 there were 11 World Heritage Areas listed for Australia, and the Register of the National Estate listed about 11 000 places.
Heritage objects - in 1991 there were about 4.4 million objects and artefacts in cultural collections (e.g. in museums) and about 38 million objects in biological collections (e.g. in zoos, botanic gardens, herbariums and museums).
Knowledge - we don't know the full extent of Australia's heritage places and objects but they are gradually being documented; there are still major gaps in some themes and regions.
Conservation - the physical condition of many heritage places and objects is thought to be generally deteriorating, although information is scarce; no national monitoring system is in place.
Protective laws - Indigenous archaeological places are protected in all States and Territories, as are historic places, however specific protection for some types of heritage objects is lacking in some States.
Human settlements - many heritage places are under considerable pressure from urban development, expansion and rezoning in metropolitan areas, and from neglect in declining rural areas.
Indigenous languages - Indigenous languages are the most significant medium by which cultural information, knowledge and traditions are transmitted across the generations; since European settlement most of the original 250 languages have become extinct, are declining or are no longer the primary means of communication; only 20 or so are considered strong today and despite maintenance programs, these too may soon be lost.
Tourism - can both stimulate improved conservation for heritage places and objects, and lead to their deterioration due to increasing visitor numbers, overuse and unintended impacts.
Community involvement - the community is not adequately involved in the identification and/or conservation of their heritage; this involvement is slowly improving. In particular, culturally appropriate conservation and management practices need developing for Indigenous heritage places and objects.
Management - no national heritage strategy exists; heritage values are often poorly integrated into environmental and socio-economic decision making.