Factors affecting resilience capacity


A major systemic threat to Australia's heritage is its relative priority in planning, land-use and development decision-making. Heritage is often determined to be expendable in the name of a greater community or economic good. To this end, the place of our heritage in our national psyche—the narratives, community understanding and affection for our heritage—affects its perceived value and therefore the priority it is afforded and the resources it attracts (see Section 3.2.1).

The resilience of Australia's natural heritage is particularly a function of the underlying spectrum of geodiversity and biodiversity represented in heritage lists and reserved lands. Management activities ranging from fire reduction to control of invasive species also contribute to natural area resilience.

Understanding and identifying the physical extent and tangible and intangible values of our Indigenous heritage is a critical component of its resilience; the more we know, the more we can manage. Involvement of associated communities on country also increases resilience capacity—for both the place itself and the Indigenous community, as cultural safekeeping of traditional knowledge and intergenerational story telling can have direct benefits for Indigenous people's sense of wellness.114

Historic places too are highly susceptible to shocks, but can be better prepared by ensuring that they have an ongoing, relevant and viable use, and by proactive management, including data collection, good conservation standards, regular maintenance and basic disaster planning (Box 9.37).

Box 9.37 Resilience based on understanding values

The Tharwa Bridge across the Murrumbidgee River in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) remains in functional public use after major conservation works were undertaken between 2005 and 2011. Built in 1895 using an Allan truss, Tharwa Bridge is highly valued by the local community and is associated with 19th century European settlement and development of the region. It is also the oldest standing bridge in the ACT.115 The bridge had suffered extensive termite damage and was determined to be unsuitable for public use. It was scheduled to be replaced by a new concrete bridge. However, in light of community representations, a major reconstruction and repair project was undertaken and the conserved Tharwa Bridge reopened to the public in June 2011. This case study highlights that the heritage value of historic structures may attach to intangible attributes (such as local community esteem), as well as to historic fabric (such as the old bridge timbers). The bridge also demonstrates that innovative approaches based on a thorough understanding of heritage values can make heritage places more resilient and give them ongoing contemporary roles.


Tharwa Bridge, 30 April 2011 (photo by Lynette Sebo, Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities)

Mackay R (2011). Heritage: Factors affecting resilience capacity. 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/5-4-factors-affecting-resilience-capacity, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0