Types of heritage


Natural heritage

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. The place either has been or should be formally identified, and set aside for conservation purposes or actively managed for these purposes (along with other uses). Such places might include national parks, marine protected areas, other reserves, botanic gardens and private conservancies, significant fauna and flora habitats, and geological sites.

Although our natural heritage includes both reserved and unreserved lands, and listed and unlisted places, this report focuses on natural heritage that has been identified and protected (see Box HER2). Natural heritage in Australia is identified and protected through a suite of strong natural protection mechanisms and statutory arrangements, including land reservation, listing of places, and provisions that apply to species or ecological communities.

Australia also has vast ‘unlisted’ natural heritage resources that have not yet been formally assessed, but may be of sufficient heritage value to justify inclusion on the National Heritage List or reservation within national parks. Australia also has large priority ecoregions that are under-represented on the World Heritage List, several ‘centres of plant diversity’ that are globally important areas for the conservation of plants, and one large ‘endemic bird area’ that is globally important for the conservation of birds (Bertzky et al. 2013).

Indigenous heritage

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage extends back across many tens of thousands of years and is of continuing significance, creating and maintaining links between the people and the land. Human occupation of the Australian continent has left a rich legacy of places that bear witness to our evolving human history. Indigenous heritage places include occupation sites, rock art, carved trees, places with known spiritual values, important waters or landscapes laden with meaning to people from that Country, and places with contemporary value to Indigenous people. Recognition of all aspects of Indigenous heritage is fundamentally important to protecting that heritage, and to the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia (see Box HER3).

Historic heritage

Historic heritage places relate particularly to the occupation and use of the continent since the arrival of European and other migrants, including pre-1788 Asian and European exploration, contact and settlement sites. Historic places tell us about the society we have formed in Australia during the past 2.5 centuries, and provide a tangible link to past events, processes and people. The Australian environment includes rare remnants of early convict history, contact sites, pastoral properties, small remote settlements and large urban areas, engineering works, factories and defence facilities, shipwrecks, and archaeological sites. Historic heritage illustrates the way in which the many cultures of Australian people (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) have modified, shaped and created our cultural environment (see Box HER4). By its nature, historic heritage will continue to evolve to represent the flow of history and changing community perceptions.

Mackay R (2016). Heritage: Types of heritage. 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/types-heritage, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0