Evidence of past resilience

2016

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 may be at risk and susceptible.

Indigenous places may be both fragile and resilient, depending on the circumstance. Indigenous heritage places have been progressively damaged and destroyed through a repetitive process of one-off decisions. Indigenous places 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 HER43).

The values of historic sites often vest (at least in part) in the fabric of the place, which, if damaged or destroyed, may be gone forever. Historic places may be made resilient through actions such as maintenance, repairs or archival recording, but have limited intrinsic ability to recover from damaging events. Examples of recovery of heritage value following major physical destruction are rare, but do exist (see Box HER44). In such cases, interpretation of information or historical association can create resilience by allowing some values to be recovered.

The resilience of Australia’s historic heritage may also be evaluated by considering 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, multiple listing and protection of a representative set of similar site types is prudent.

Mackay R (2016). Heritage: Evidence of past resilience. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/heritage/topic/2016/evidence-past-resilience, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0