At a glance
The resilience of Australia’s heritage can be considered in relation to both individual heritage places and the total heritage resource.
The ability of individual places or wider resources to withstand shocks depends on the nature of specific heritage values and their susceptibility to change. The resilience of the overall heritage resource is a function of what is protected through the reserved lands system or individual heritage lists and registers.
The current resilience of Australia’s heritage cannot be readily assessed based on available information. However, there are opportunities to improve the resilience of Australia’s heritage through better data gathering, regular maintenance, specific risk preparedness and disaster planning.
In this report, resilience is:
… the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks. (Walker et al. 2004)
In the case of heritage, both tangible and intangible attributes—such as fabric, function or use—may contribute to heritage values. Values are what distinguish heritage places from other places. Therefore, the resilience of heritage places may be understood as the ability to experience shocks while retaining heritage values.
Resilience is partly an aspect of the nature of the place itself, partly the nature of its value and partly a function of the way it is managed. For example, the resilience of a large natural landscape will be vastly different from the resilience of a small archaeological deposit. Physical change will affect heritage values in some places, whereas intangible qualities such as use or beliefs may be more important in other places. Loss of knowledge may therefore have a greater adverse effect on heritage values than changes to the physical aspects of a place. The resilience of Australian heritage—although influenced by drivers such as population growth and economic development—is also strongly affected by governance arrangements, resources and community attitudes.
Heritage resilience may be considered and managed at different levels. For example, individual heritage places may be very susceptible to shocks such as fire, flood, demolition or loss of traditional knowledge. However, the total natural or cultural resource base may be sufficiently robust to withstand the loss of individual places without substantive overall loss of value to the total heritage resource.