The importance of assessing management effectiveness is well recognised for protected areas, but less so for other types of heritage (Leverington et al. 2010). Evaluating the outcomes for heritage requires informed evaluation of the way in which current pressures and emerging risks to heritage values are being reduced, and how the resilience of heritage is being improved to retain values.

A nationwide lack of monitoring and evaluation programs makes these assessments challenging and highly reliant on individual examples, anecdotal evidence and phenomenological data (see Box HER41). The judgements presented in this section are based on opinions expressed during workshops with peak expert, government and stakeholder groups (as outlined in Introduction) and the National Heritage place monitoring survey (WHAM 2017).

The Australian Heritage Strategy supports regular, long-term monitoring, evaluation and reporting of World Heritage and National Heritage value conditions (Australian Government 2015a).

Natural heritage

Australian national parks and other recognised natural heritage places are accessible to the community, strongly promoted both within Australia and overseas, presented to visitors in engaging ways, and are often important elements in community identity and sense of place.

Each Australian jurisdiction has a separate statutory basis, and different structures and processes for natural heritage place management. At a national level, the National Reserve System has a strong focus, and its targets provide one way to assess the outcome for Australia’s reserved lands. Forty-eight of Australia’s 89 bioregions have more than 10 per cent of their area in reserved lands. However, taking other factors into account, such as subregions determined by vegetation communities, habitat and whole-of-landscape connectivity, reserved lands do not yet comprise an adequate selection. By contrast, Commonwealth marine reserves, and state and territory marine reserves, include more than 30 per cent of marine bioregions.

Limited information is available on the totality of conservation outcomes for natural heritage in Australian national parks, as only New South Wales (NSW OEH 2016a) and Victoria (Parks Victoria 2016) undertake substantive formal monitoring and evaluation of the state of parks. Australia’s Strategy for the National Reserve System 2009–2030 (NRSTG 2010) proposes that the states and territories standardise approaches to data collection and evaluation of management effectiveness. The predominantly anecdotal information that is available suggests that heritage values are generally being retained, despite some decline in habitat and some species loss. Comprehensive national data are not available to make objective judgements about natural heritage outside the parks system. However, Australian Government environmental biosecurity work (pre-border, at border and post-border) is improving protection from the introduction of new invasive species and diseases.

Indigenous heritage

Differences between jurisdictional systems prevent reliable conclusions being drawn about the coverage of listed and protected Indigenous heritage places. However, the heritage values of Indigenous places in reserved lands or under Indigenous management are being retained. Little information is available on the effects of management action on the values of other parts of Australia’s Indigenous heritage. Incomplete understanding of the resource, the current processes used to respond to development pressures and incremental site destruction continue to place Indigenous heritage sites at risk. There is no cohesive national picture for Indigenous heritage, or adequate action by government agencies to coordinate management of Indigenous heritage resources and share information at a national level. Assessing outcomes for Australia’s Indigenous heritage is therefore hampered by lack of comparable data, and the absence of formal monitoring and evaluation programs.

Despite these shortcomings, Australia’s Indigenous heritage is celebrated by Indigenous people, often accessible to the wider community, strongly promoted within Australia and overseas, and increasingly presented by Indigenous people in accordance with relevant cultural practices.

Historic heritage

Historic heritage places are usually accessible, often cherished, increasingly presented to visitors in engaging ways, and recognised as important elements in community identity and sense of place (see Box HER42).

Through the Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand, there is some national coordination of the management of Australia’s historic heritage resources, despite the separate statutes and different government structures in each jurisdiction.

Australia’s listed historic sites are numerous, but have been assessed, listed and protected in an ad hoc manner. Although the Australian Heritage Database offers a convenient portal to information about more than 20,000 natural, historic and Indigenous heritage places, it does not include all the statutory heritage lists and is difficult to use. There are no readily available national data that allow assessment of the representativeness of the national set of listed historic places. Limited information is available on the effectiveness of historic heritage management, because very little long-term monitoring and evaluation takes place within state and territory or local jurisdictions.

Mackay R (2016). Heritage: Outcomes. 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/outcomes, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0