The major mechanism for managing historic heritage in Australia is through statutory lists and registers, which are neither cohesive nor comprehensive. Many heritage places in Australia are not heritage listed, but they continue to be well managed and cared for by their owners and managers. This augments and complements formal statutory places and reinforces the importance that Australians place on heritage.
The Australian Heritage Strategy recognises that the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List both require additional resources—for listing and for associated management and monitoring. Other heritage lists, including state and territory registers and local schedules and overlays, include more places, but may still not necessarily reflect the extent of historic heritage that is valued by the community. Several jurisdictions are focusing on improving the coverage and integrity of their heritage registers. Meanwhile, incomplete statutory registers may result in undesirable outcomes, including a reactive approach when major developments occur, and inconsistency between local, state and national governments.
Planning provisions, and building codes and standards that affect historic heritage management could be improved. The Australian Heritage Strategy focuses on partnership-based programs, new funding sources and improved best-practice guidelines for existing listed historic heritage. The need remains for more thorough systematic assessment, because, in the long term, comprehensive heritage registers can lead to better decision-making and incorporation of heritage values into strategic planning processes, and improved heritage conservation outcomes. Nevertheless, the outlook for heritage can be greatly improved through development, communication and implementation of consistent best-practice standards and guidelines for heritage conservation and management, such as the practice notes that Australia ICOMOS has prepared on aspects of the Burra Charter and its application (Australia ICOMOS 2016a). There is also a continuing downward trend in the skills base and specialist expertise available in historic heritage, which would best be remedied through government intervention.