Assessing the condition of Australia's heritage places is hampered by an incomplete and unrepresentative set of formally identified heritage places, and by the absence of a comprehensive body of reliable national data. Available information tends to relate to inputs such as the number of protected places or funding levels, rather than outcomes such as the actual physical condition and integrity of listed places.
However, some conclusions may be drawn from sample surveys, surrogate data and indicators. The SoE reports for 2001 and 2006 both relied on a set of natural and cultural heritage indicators, originally prepared in 1998, as the basis for summary assessment.9 The same approach has been used here, augmented by some selected case studies and additional information now available from the national data collection project of the former Environment Protection Heritage Council, and Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand, which has provided some consistent information about heritage listings and human and financial resources.
It is recognised that this is a piecemeal approach that may not thoroughly address some of the complexities and subtleties in the heritage system, including multivalue cultural landscapes, regional perspectives and unlisted sites. However, the approach uses the available data and offers relevant observations.
The assessments in this chapter were also informed by a series of workshops held with relevant stakeholder groups, including the Australian Heritage Council; Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand; the heads of Australian, state and territory parks agencies; the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) Indigenous Advisory Committee; Australian representatives from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Australia ICOMOS); and the Australian Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ACIUCN). Although these workshops cannot replace empirical evidence, they have allowed a high degree of confidence in assessment based on consensus. In addition to workshops and literature reviews, three specialist consulting projects were commissioned to evaluate the condition and integrity of a small sample of places with natural, Indigenous and historic values.10-12 The information in this chapter presents a snapshot based on observation, rather than a longitudinal analysis based on comprehensive information.