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Heritage is all the things that make up Australia’s identity—our spirit and ingenuity, our historic buildings, and our unique, living landscapes. Our heritage is a legacy from our past, a living, integral part of life today, and the stories and places we pass on to future generations. (DoEE n.d.[a])
Australia’s heritage is an important element of the environment. Our land and surrounding waters feature extraordinary geodiversity, unique ecosystems and profound cultural traditions that extend back thousands of years. Layered across these ancient landscapes and seascapes is the evidence of these traditions and of more than 2 centuries of colonial and postcolonial history—young in global terms, but a vital part of our culture.
Australia’s heritage comprises both natural and cultural places with tangible (physical) and intangible (associated) attributes that have intergenerational value—places that we have inherited and will pass on to future generations. Although this report focuses on places with natural or cultural values, Australia’s heritage is multidimensional, and includes movable items and intangible elements such as stories and memories.
For many Australians, particularly those from Indigenous backgrounds, the divide between nature and culture is artificial because the environment is perceived as one interlinked, complex cultural landscape, created and lived in by ancestors and the contemporary community. This report recognises this complex relationship, but considers heritage in accordance with national listing and identification processes (see Box HER1), which divide heritage according to ‘natural’, ‘Indigenous’ and ‘historic’ domains (Australian Government 2015a). This approach is consistent with the SoE 2011 'Heritage' chapter, thereby allowing comparison between 2011 and 2016.
SoE 2016 adopts a national perspective. However, assessing the state of the nation’s heritage also demands an understanding of state and territory, and local heritage, because it may be critical to community identity. At the national level, heritage overlaps with other environmental components—such as air, biodiversity, the land, inland waters, marine environments, Antarctica or urban areas—which are covered in other SoE 2016 reports and documents.
Infographic explaining that heritage is an important part of our environment and a shared responsibility. Heritage can have natural, Indigenous and/or historic values related to social or spiritual significance, science research, aesthetic or creative qualities, and education and tourism. Everyone has a role in looking after our heritage.
DoEE (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy) (n.d.[a]). Heritage, DoEE, Canberra, accessed June 2016. http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage
Australian Government (2015b). Our north, our future: white paper on developing northern Australia, Australian Government, Canberra. http://northernaustralia.gov.au/sites/prod.office-northern-australia.gov.au/files/files/NAWP-FullReport.pdf
Identifying and protecting heritage places is fundamental to ensuring that they are appropriately conserved, celebrated and passed on to future generations. The reasons to consider heritage as a discrete part of the environment and to list heritage places include:
Natural heritage places are definable locations or areas of land and sea that can be identified and defined as heritage values by applying assessment criteria such as those used to assess places for the National Heritage List.
Mackay R (2016). Heritage: Introduction. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/heritage/framework/introduction, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0
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What is a framework?
The SoE framework is the underlying structure used across all themes to assess the environment. It builds on an internationally accepted framework for SoE reporting—the DPSIR (drivers-pressures-state-impact-response) framework but also includes discussions on resilience, emerging risks and environmental outlooks.
Australia State of the Environment 2016 has been prepared by independent experts using the best available information to support assessments of environmental condition, pressures, management effectiveness, resilience, risks and outlook.
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We, the authors, acknowledge the traditional owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community; we pay respect to them and their cultures and to their elders both past and present.