Chris Johnston, Context Pty Ltd
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
Effective recognition and management of heritage values in environmental management requires capacity building.
Interdisciplinary skills are an essential complement to specialist knowledge to ensure heritage values are effectively considered in environmental management.
There is no information available to indicate whether the breadth of skills has increased within Commonwealth agencies in response to the new requirements of the EPBC Act. Generally speaking, staff numbers appear to have remained the same between 2001 and 2005 . Within state and territory governments, the number of skilled staff in each of the three heritage areas—Indigenous, historic and natural—is largely unknown and there is no information as to the breadth of skills.
Membership of professional cultural heritage associations also appears to have remained relatively static (Lennon 2006). There are many professional organisations for cultural and natural heritage practitioners (for example, cultural—Australia ICOMOS ; Australian Archaeological Association, Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material, Australian Council Professional Historians Association; natural—the Ecological Consultants Association, Association of Marine Biology, Ecological Society of Australia) as well as specific interest groups (for example, Australasian Bat Society, the Australian Mammal Society, Society of Architectural Historians of Australian and New Zealand). As yet there is no professional association established specifically to facilitate exchange between natural and cultural heritage practitioners.
The Australian Council of Building Design Professions is an example of a professional ‘umbrella’ organisation that has been set up by seven existing professional associations with the aim of achieving better practices, policies, legislation and regulation for the design of the built environment for people in the constituent professions of architecture, engineering, quantity surveying, landscape architecture and planning (Australian Council of Building Design Professions (BDP) 2005).
The national organisation for environmental practitioners in Australia is the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand and it has not formed any specialist groups; it is organised as Chapters (Australia and New Zealand) and Divisions (states and territories). Recently, a Certified Environmental Practitioner (CEnvP) certification scheme has been established, and areas of practice that might be included for practitioners could include heritage management.
Some professional organisations have established special interest ‘environment’ and ‘heritage’ groups: for example, the Institution of Engineers has established an Environmental College and a group covering engineering heritage (Engineering Heritage Australia).
There are many opportunities for tertiary training in cultural heritage and environmental management, with a search of the revealing 22 courses in cultural heritage and 43 in environmental management; in additional there are many more courses in the specialities within each of these two broad disciplines. There are also 18 courses in Indigenous studies, most covering community, health and development, with only a few focused on culture and heritage (Hobsons Guides Website).
The 1970s saw the growth of multidisciplinary, postgraduate environmental courses, integrating many previously unlinked discipline areas. These courses were created in response to intense interest and concern about the global environment and recognition of the multiple impacts of many human activities. Today, a wide range of environment courses are available at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and in all States and Territories. Cross-disciplinary cultural heritage courses have developed more recently, primarily since the 1980s. There are no courses in South Australia, Tasmania or the Northern Territory.
Examples of courses that cover both natural and cultural heritage within an environmental management framework appear to be rare, and it would be informative to research the training background of today’s environmental managers. One long-standing example is the Parks, Recreation and Heritage course (at graduate certificate, graduate diploma and masters level) at Charles Sturt University, which offers an in-depth understanding of both natural and cultural resource management.
Two other environmental management courses that include cultural heritage are, for example:
- Bachelor of Science – Natural Environment and Wilderness Management (University of Tasmania) is a multi-disciplinary programme that provides practical and scientific skills for planning, managing and monitoring environmental resources in wilderness and other natural areas.
- Bachelor of Social Science (Environment) at RMIT includes Indigenous studies in a course that focuses on environmental management.
Another example is the Conservation and Land Management Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses that are based on a National Training Package designed for those employed or seeking employment in practical environmental management. The main emphasis is on the assessment of practical skills with industry tasks and field projects. There is no cultural heritage equivalent, and cultural heritage is notably absent from this programme.
Many people participate as volunteers to support their local community and environment, through membership of organisations and through hands-on work.
Opportunities to care for a local environment occur primarily through Landcare and Friends groups. These volunteer organisations have been well supported by Landcare and Natural Heritage Trust funding programmes over many years, and most localities appear to have one or more groups with a hands-on environmental care focus.
Cultural heritage opportunities appear to be more limited, although many historic places also have Friends groups. Hands on Heritage offers opportunities to participate in conserving historic places. Conservation Volunteers Australia, a sponsor of Hands on Heritage with Heritage Victoria, primarily offers volunteer programmes focused on the environment, with more than 2000 projects available Australia-wide. The Conservation Volunteers Australia website offers an effective search tool called ‘Conservation Connect’, which enables potential volunteers to search for opportunities across Australia. Hands on Heritage is not accessible through this searching function (Heritage Victoria 2005; Conservation Volunteers Australia website).
The lack of cross-disciplinary courses suggests that the areas of natural and cultural heritage will continue to remain distinct specialisations, limiting opportunities for developing dialogue, shared methodologies and broadening career choices. People trained in environmental management need multidisciplinary skills and approaches, and a broad understanding of both cultural and natural heritage. A skills audit may reveal more specific training needs.
Opportunities for volunteer participation in cultural heritage are more limited than in environmental management, and the tools available to enable volunteers to find suitable opportunities are undeveloped compared with those available in the environment sector.
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