Evidence of past resilience



The resilience of heritage places depends on the nature of their values and the extent of the total resource. Australian bioregions that are well represented in the reserved lands system are much more resilient as a whole than under-represented bioregions. Ecosystems and species that are fire dependent will be more resilient to an increase in fire frequency brought about by climate change; conversely, species that are highly dependent on ecological niches will be at risk and susceptible.


Regrowth after bush fire, Blue Mountains, New South Wales Photo by Mark Mohell and the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Indigenous places may be both fragile and resilient, depending on the circumstance. Tangible Indigenous heritage has been incrementally eroded since 1788 through a repetitive process of one-off decisions that allow individual sites to be destroyed (with or without investigation or recording). Sites whose value is in physical form are not resilient to damage or destruction. However, some Indigenous places with intangible value have demonstrated an ability to recover through re-engagement of traditional owners, transmission of stories and re-establishment of traditions (Box 9.36).

Box 9.36 Recovery of Indigenous tradition

At the 2010 National Indigenous Land and Sea Management Conference in Broken Hill, delegates were told of the return of Aboriginal elders to the Bunya Mountains, north of Brisbane, to revitalise their continuous cultural and spiritual connection to country. The area, which is home to the nut-bearing bunya pines, used to be the focus for gatherings to share stories, song, dance, knowledge and law, but is no longer owned by Aboriginal people. The Bunya Mountains Elders Council has developed a long-term strategy for developing a Bunya Caring for Country Trust, which will help address the issues that arise for Aboriginal communities without tenure, thereby reasserting their rights and obligations to country, re-establishing traditional practices and recovering some of the lost heritage value of the country.111

The values of individual historic sites are usually part of the fabric of the place, which, if damaged or destroyed, may be gone forever. Individual historic sites may be made more resilient through protection from external shocks (through maintenance, repairs, archival recording or other management techniques), but have less intrinsic ability to recover. Examples of recovery of heritage value following major damage or physical destruction are very rare, but do exist. In such cases, the intangible associative value of the heritage item is its resilient attribute.

The resilience of Australia's historic heritage may also usefully be considered in relation to the total of listed historic places and whether a sufficiently representative set of site types has been identified and protected. Although such an approach can never replace the specific characteristics or value of an individual site that is damaged or destroyed, there is a strong case to be made that multiple listings of similar sites are a prudent and desirable measure. For example, the loss arising from destruction of huts by bushfires in Kosciuszko National Park in 2003 was tempered by the continuing presence of the huts that were not burnt. This loss was also mitigated by select reconstruction.


The Broken Dam Hut re-opening, December 2007, Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales

Mackay R (2011). Heritage: Evidence of past resilience. In: Australia state of the environment 2011, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/science/soe/2011-report/9-heritage/5-resilience/5-2-evidence, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0