Heritage of Australia

Australia is a nation of diverse languages, customs, traditions and ethnic communities, including both natives and immigrants. Inspite of its diversity, the Australian heritage binds the country together and gives it a distinct identity. It is reflected in the country's historical monuments and places, traditional values, paintings and books with historical and cultural significance.

Through the National Collecting Institutions, the government provides support in preserving Australia's cultural symbols and making them accessible to audiences both local and international. The national collecting agencie are:

  • National Gallery of Australia
  • National Library of Australia
  • National Portrait Gallery of Australia
  • National Museum of Australia
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Bundanon Trust
  • National Archives of Australia
  • National Film and Sound Archive (previously known as Screen Sound Australia)

Efforts aimed at preserving the Australian heritage have been categorized as:

National Heritage :

  • Australia's national heritage includes a list of places or groups of places with great heritage value to the nation. Places on this list come under theprotection of the Federal Government Powers.

  • The National Heritage List consist offorty one properties. Examples: Royal Exhibition Building National Historic Place, Kurnell Peninsula, Fremantle Prison, Yea Flora Fossil Site among others.

  • Commonwealth Heritage : This category comprises of a list of natural, indigenous, historical heritage sites under the control of the Commonwealth. These consist of places that are associated with customs, communications, defense and other Government activities. Examples: Cameron Offices, Belconnen, Duntroon House and Garden, Campbell (Australian Capital Territory), Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay, Hay Post Office (New South Wales), RAAF Base Precinct, Bradshaw Defense Area (Northern Territory) among others.

Australian Heritage Council:

  • Principal adviser to the Australian Government on heritage, the Australian Heritage Council assesses nominations for National Heritage List and Commonwealth Heritage List. It was appointed on 19 February, 2004.

Indigenous Heritage :

  • The Heritage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders holds huge significance to Australia and it forms a constant link between the land and the inhabitants. The Indigenous Advisory Committee advises on indigenous issues relating to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Movable Cultural Heritage :

  • This category includes objects created or collected by people, be it artistic, natural or technological and can be an important part of Australia's cultural heritage. The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 is administered by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Examples: paintings by the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, Musical instruments, arms and armour among other items which are more than twenty years old.

Historic Shipwrecks :

Over 6500 historic shipwrecks lie beyond Australia's shores and each one has its own unique story to tell. These ship wrecks and the stories behind them have been an integral part of Australia's heritage. It is the duty of the Commonwealth to protect and conserve these historic wrecks and relics lying under the Commonwealth waters.

Example: English Vessel Trial on the Northern West Coast of Western Australia (1622), and HMS Pandora off the Great Barrier Reef among others.

Other Councils include Cultural Ministers Council (CMC) and Collection Council of Australia (CCA).


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