Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage can be both tangible and intangible. It intrinsically links people to place and enables cultural connections with country.
Heritage places are central to our community’s character and identity — allowing us to trace our history and feel connected to the important stories about our progress.
World Heritage sites are places that have outstanding universal value that transcends the significance they hold for a particular nation.
An Introduction to Heritage in the Queensland State of the Environment Report
Management responses are the actions or initiatives undertaken to protect, maintain and restore environmental assets, as well as those that prevent, mitigate or adapt to changes in the environment. They are generally developed in reaction to the observed or anticipated pressures and impacts, or the state of the environment. They act in a multitude of ways, either individually or, more often, in concert with one another to bring about environmental change.
Applicable management responses related to heritage include:
The purpose of the cultural heritage database is to assemble information in a central and accessible location, to be used as a research and planning tool to assist with the assessment of cultural heritage values of particular areas. The database is not publicly accessible.
The cultural heritage register, which is available to the public, holds information regarding:
- cultural heritage studies
- designated landscape areas
- whether a particular area has been the subject of a cultural heritage management plan
- cultural heritage bodies
- details of statutory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parties.
The register also contains information used for land-use planning. It is used as a research and planning tool to assist with the assessment of cultural heritage values of particular objects and areas.
The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 and the Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003 provide effective recognition, protection and conservation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage, defined as anything that is:
- a significant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander area or object in Queensland; or
- evidence, of archaeological or historic significance, of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander occupation of an area of Queensland.
An area or object is significant because of either or both of the following:
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander tradition
- history including contemporary history of any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander party for the area.
- provide blanket protection of areas and objects of traditional, customary, and archaeological significance
- recognise the key role of traditional owners in cultural heritage matters
- establish practical and flexible processes for dealing with cultural heritage in a timely manner.
A cultural heritage management plan (CHMP) is an agreement between a land user and Traditional Owners, developed under Part 7 of the Acts that explains how land use activities can be managed to avoid or minimise harm to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.
While a CHMP must be developed and approved under Part 7 of the legislation when an environmental impact statement is required for a project, any land user can voluntarily develop and seek to have a CHMP approved.
A statutory 1-month notification of an intention to develop a CHMP is followed by a 3-month negotiation and consultation period with the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander party regarding the terms of the plan.
In Australia World Heritage obligations are met through co-operative and legislative arrangements between the Australian Government, State and Territory governments, local government agencies, property owners/site managers and traditional owners.
The World Heritage Convention and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) require the preparation of property specific World Heritage Management Plans for each of Australia’s World Heritage properties. The World Heritage Intergovernmental Agreement between the Queensland and Australian Governments establishes that the Queensland Government is responsible for development of World Heritage Management Plans which are consistent with the provisions of the EPBC Act.
World Heritage Management Plans provide direction for effective coordination of management efforts by providing a clear ‘line of sight’ between strategic goals, objectives, strategies and those responsible for implementation.
The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (the Act) requires that a management statement or management plan be prepared for each protected area to guide how the area is managed. These documents provide strategic management direction about the management of key park values. There is a strategic line of sight from management statements and plans to on-the-ground operations.
The Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998 (the Management Plan) provides the legal framework for management of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. The Management Plan is required under Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993 and only applies to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The plan is currently being reviewed and updated.
The Department of Environment and Science have commenced a process to work with First Nations people and other external partners to update the World Heritage Management Plans for Riversleigh, Fraser Island (K’gari) and Gondwana Rainforests. Gondwana Rainforests extends across the New South Wales border and includes the country of multiple First Nations groups.
The Queensland Heritage Act 1992 is the primary legislation by which Queensland’s historic heritage places are identified and protected, creating an environment for growing recognition of the State’s cultural heritage. The Act is administered by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) and the Queensland Heritage Council, an independent statutory body. The Heritage Council has responsibility for deciding which places are entered in, or removed from, the state’s Heritage Register, providing advice to the government about cultural heritage matters and assessing applications for development of state-owned heritage places.
Amendments to the Queensland Heritage Act 1992 introduced in September 2015, along with a new Heritage Regulation changed the focus on reducing regulatory burden while ensuring protections for Queensland’s heritage places. The 2015 amendments emphasised the important role played by local government in heritage protection and reinforced the strategic role of the Queensland Heritage Council.
Subsequently, Heritage Register processes were streamlined. Excluded place provisions replaced the out-dated Certificate of Immunity provisions; the scope of Exemption Certificates was expanded to reduce the regulatory burden for owners when they undertake low-impact work on a heritage place; Essential Repair and Maintenance provisions were strengthened to better target wilful neglect; and the orders available to the court in penalising those convicted of certain offences under the Heritage Act were expanded. A requirement was also introduced requiring underwater cultural heritage artefacts (including ship and aircraft wrecks lost in Queensland waters, rivers and bays for at least 75 years) to be reported and protecting these discoveries from interference without consent.
Local governments’ vital role in protecting local heritage places was emphasised and updated along with Exemption Certificate, Essential Repair and Maintenance and Heritage Agreement powers for local heritage places. In 2019 the Brisbane City Council was prescribed under Queensland Heritage Act 1992 to issue essential repair and maintenance notices of local heritage places.
The Queensland Heritage Register is the primary instrument by which places of heritage value to Queensland as a whole are identified and protected. The Department of Environment and Science manages the details about places in the Queensland Heritage Register, but the Queensland Heritage Council makes decisions about which places are entered in or removed from it, and when substantial changes are made to those entry documents.
Places in the Queensland Register fall into 2 categories, State Heritage Places and Protected Areas. State Heritage Places are important to Queensland’s story and significant to the State of Queensland. Protected Areas are places that have strong heritage values that are vulnerable and under threat.
The Queensland Heritage Act 1992 includes provisions to enter and remove places in or from the Queensland Heritage Register requiring a high standard of application information to ensure only well-researched and evidenced applications are progressed. There are also streamlined processes to update existing entry details to ensure greater currency of information about State Heritage Places entered in the Queensland Heritage Register.
Queensland’s maritime and underwater heritage is protected and managed under the provisions of state and Commonwealth legislation which provide protection for all underwater cultural heritage sites and associated artefacts older than 75 years. This protection applies to all ship and aircraft wrecks, and other submerged archaeological sites located along Queensland’s open coast, bays, lakes, and inland waterways.
Queensland participates with the Australian Government and other states, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island government agencies through the Historic Shipwrecks Program, to protect and conserve Australia’s irreplaceable underwater heritage. Participants in the program jointly administer and manage underwater cultural heritage located adjacent to their coasts and provide national consistency over how shipwrecks, sunken aircraft and other types of underwater heritage are protected and managed. The participants also work towards fulfilling the objectives of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018.
The federal Underwater Cultural Heritage Act, which came into effect on 1 July 2019, gives clarity to present and ongoing jurisdictional arrangements for the protection and management of Australia’s underwater cultural heritage. The issuing of permits is delegated to the Director, Heritage and Arts in the Department of Environment and Science.
Part 9 of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992 also includes provisions to protect underwater cultural heritage in State waters, in line with protections under Commonwealth Underwater Heritage Act.
The World Heritage List comprises natural and cultural places of ‘outstanding universal value’ selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee.
The Committee is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention, defining the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocating financial assistance, deciding whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List, examining reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties, and asking for action to be taken when properties are not being properly managed. It also decides on the inscription or deletion of properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Once a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List, effective and active measures must be taken for the ongoing identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage.
While UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee does not direct the management of listed world heritage properties, it does provide high level guidelines. It also requires that reporting on the state of properties conservation is undertaken and can liaise with State parties regarding possible concerns.
The World Heritage Unit within the Partnerships Branch of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service & Partnerships manage the administration, governance and strategic direction and policy development for the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh section), Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and Fraser Island (K’gari) World Heritage properties. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is responsible for management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The Wet Tropics Management Authority oversees management of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area and works closely with DES’s World Heritage Team to support a consistent approach across Queensland.
The day to day management and protection of the World Heritage properties is primarily carried out by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service & Partnerships and often in partnership with First Nations ranger organisations.
Policy and Programs
Monitoring and reporting of the World Heritage values is undertaken regularly through a number of State, Commonwealth and World Heritage Centre processes including World Heritage Outlook, State of Conservation, State of the Environment, State of the Parks, State of the Wet Tropics reporting as well as other periodic reports.
These documents detail how effectively the World Heritage properties are being managed by collecting data from various sources and reporting on value, threat, condition, trend and management responses.
Outcomes of these monitoring and reporting processes help inform management responses for the responsible management agencies.
Monitoring of underwater cultural heritage sites, which includes historic ship and aircraft wrecks and articles associated with them, is undertaken periodically, after severe weather events, and in response to notifications made by members of the public.
The Department of Environment and Science assesses, and issues permits to enter protected zones, which encompass 9 shipwreck and 2 aircraft wreck sites in Queensland. Accompanying guides for 7 popular historic shipwrecks, and for visiting historic shipwrecks generally, have also been prepared.
Information obtained from monitoring activities is used to update the Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database (Australian Government) and the Living Heritage Information System (Queensland Government).
Monitoring helps keep sites open and enables risks to be addressed. This supports commercial and recreational divers to responsibly engage with the state’s underwater cultural heritage.
Open House visitation data is used to guide and improve future events.
Starting in London in 1992, the Open House movement showcases outstanding architecture and encourages people to explore and understand the value of a well-designed built environment.
Following the lead of Melbourne in 2008, Open Houses started in Brisbane in 2010, satellite events commenced in Maryborough (2012), Toowoomba (2013), Gold Coast (2015), Bundaberg (2016) and Sunshine Coast (2017).
The Open House regional program supports tourism, along with cultural and professional development beyond Brisbane. Each regional event is an opportunity to celebrate not only Queensland’s diverse architectural trends – but diverse environments, heritage, and community needs and desires.
Visitation numbers are used to:
- maintain current sponsorship commitments and to secure new sponsors
- encourage other regional centres to become involved in the Open House movement
- develop and refine programs at future events
- allocate volunteer resources more efficiently.
Of the estimated 1,100 historic ship and aircraft wrecks along the Queensland coastline, only about 12% have been properly documented with an exact location and description of the site. Through a combination of survey work, historical research, and information from the public, the number of properly documented historic shipwrecks is increasing.
When information becomes available, historic ship and aircraft wreck entries in the Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database are updated with an exact location and site description. Accurate identification of historic underwater cultural heritage allows appropriate management and protection of for current and future generations.