Australia's population is increasing, and the distribution of people around the Australian landscape is changing. This will affect all aspects of the environment, including heritage.
Along with population growth, the increasing recognition and prominence of heritage places results in increased visitation to heritage places. Ironically, this has the potential to lead to damage or vandalism. Pressures from damage are greatest in popular heritage areas, and pressures from vandalism are greatest in remote, unregulated areas and where there is poor communication about heritage values and appropriate visitor behaviour.
Australia is a young nation, and we continue to grapple with our heritage and how it fits into the national narrative—our perception of who we are, and the places that create our national identity. Australia's national heritage narrative is not well told. Indeed, despite strong community interest and support for heritage,41 it seldom becomes a major agenda item in national debate and suffers seriously from under-resourcing.
Value...remains at the centre of all heritage practice; it is what justifies legal protection, funding or regulation; it is what inspires people to get involved with heritage. Indeed, in public value terms, something is only of value if citizens—either individually or collectively—are willing to give something up in return for it. Kelly et al.42
Heritage places become neglected if they are not adequately identified and recognised, if they become redundant or if they are not directly connected with economic activity.
In 2006, a survey-based study of community interest and participation in Australian heritage by Deakin University found that interest in heritage is high, even though direct participation is not (Figures 9.13 and 9.14).41 The respondents saw heritage management as a shared responsibility, not solely a government function, and preferred broad, inclusive heritage management that retains the use and functionality of protected items.
The review of heritage in the study went well beyond stereotypical colonial architecture to include natural items such as native animals, intangible concepts such as the contribution of immigration, experiences such as cultural festivals, and even very recent buildings and architecture. Elements rated as most important to protect and preserve, such as native fauna and waterways, were seen as being important to all Australians, as well as vulnerable and irreplaceable.
Despite the findings of this study and anecdotal evidence such as high levels of community participation in annual Heritage Week activities, regular media coverage of heritage issues or active opposition to developments that threaten heritage places, these opinions do not appear to translate into government policy or resources for heritage conservation.