These FAQs answer some of the more common questions about Commonwealth Heritage. If you can’t find the answer you are looking for here, or have more questions, you can contact the Commonwealth Heritage team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many different lists of natural and cultural heritage places throughout Australia. These are not comprehensive lists of heritage places, but lists of the places that have been identified and recorded up to the present time.
The primary difference between the Commonwealth, National and World Heritage Lists is a question of threshold.
The World Heritage List is a list of places that are important to all the peoples of the world. The places on this list have special universal values above and beyond the values they hold for a particular nation.
The National Heritage List is Australia’s list of natural, historic and Indigenous places of outstanding significance to the nation. A place may have natural, Indigenous or historic values, or a combination of all three.
The Commonwealth Heritage List is a list of Indigenous, historic and natural heritage places owned or controlled by the Australian Government. These include places connected to defence, communications, customs and other government activities that also reflect Australia’s development as a nation.
The Register of the National Estate (RNE) was closed in 2007 and is no longer a statutory list. All references to the Register of the National Estate were removed from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) on 19 February 2012.
Any new Heritage Strategies or Heritage Management Plans should reflect this, with no references to the RNE.
Values of places in the Commonwealth Heritage List might be protected under more than one provision of the Act. For example, a Commonwealth Heritage Place might also be in the National Heritage List or the World Heritage List.
Where this is the case, the Act may prescribe additional management requirements and/or principles. A plan for managing a Commonwealth Heritage place can be in the same document as other plans that the Act or another Commonwealth law requires or permits (s.341W).
To avoid duplication, Australian Government agencies must not make a plan for managing a Commonwealth Heritage place that is in a Commonwealth reserve and covered by another plan under the Act. A similar provision applies to the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands (s.341U).
The Commonwealth Heritage List includes a number of places situated in external territories controlled by Australia. While the majority of these are places within Australian waters, for example Christmas Island or Heard and McDonald Islands, or in Antarctica, there are also two places in the list located within Australian territory in other countries. These include the Residence of the Australian Ambassador Washington and Australia House, London.
Other overseas sites that have a special place in Australia’s history are symbolically recognised on the List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia (LOPHSA).
Anyone can nominate a place with significant heritage values to the Commonwealth Heritage List. Each year the Minister for the Environment and Energy (the Minister) may invite nominations.
The Australian Heritage Council is the principal adviser to the Australian Government of heritage matters. The Council assesses nominations for the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage list. The Minister may ask the Council for advice on action that he or she may take in relation to the List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia.
Site owners and managers have a number of obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. You can find out more about these on the page Managing Commonwealth Heritage places.
The Department of the Environment and Energy has also prepared a helpful guide, Working Together: Managing Commonwealth Heritage Places which provides an overview of matters to consider in relation to the management of Commonwealth Heritage places. The guide has been specifically prepared for managers who have a responsibility for these types of heritage places.
Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) a Commonwealth agency must prepare a Management Plan of all Commonwealth Heritage places under their control or ownership.
A management plan is a tool intended to help managers to conserve and protect the Commonwealth Heritage values of a place included in the Commonwealth Heritage List. It is a written document identifying in detail the heritage values of a place and the conservation policies to be followed.
The Department of the Environment and Energy’s guide for managers who have a responsibility for Commonwealth Heritage Places, Working Together: Managing Commonwealth Heritage Places provides further detail on how to prepare a Heritage Management Plan.
The Department of the Environment and Energy does not maintain a register of heritage consultants, however, state and territory agencies may be able to provide information about heritage consultants located within their area. Some of these agencies may also provide information about specialist trades and services. Below is a list of contacts for more information.
|State/Territory||Agency Name||Contact Details|
|ACT||The Heritage Unit||13 22 81
|NSW||The Department of Planning (Heritage Branch)||(02) 9873 8500
13 15 55
|NT||The Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts||(08) 8924 4142
|WA||The Heritage Council of Western Australia||(08) 6552 4000
1800 524 000
|SA||Department for Environment and Heritage||(08) 8226 2127
|QLD||Cultural Heritage Unit of the Environment Protection Agency||(07) 3227 6834
|TAS||Heritage Tasmania||(03) 6233 2037
1800 850 332
|VIC||Heritage Victoria||(03) 9938 6894
Places in the Commonwealth Heritage List are protected by the Environment Protection and Environment Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Changes to heritage places may require referral to the Department of Environment and Energy for further assessment.
You can read more about the referral and assessment process at Protecting Places of the Commonwealth Heritage List.
Divestment is when a Commonwealth agency executes a contract of sale or lease for a place or part of a place on Commonwealth land that has Commonwealth Heritage value. This includes both places included in the Commonwealth Heritage List and places not included in the Commonwealth Heritage List that have identified Commonwealth Heritage value. Commonwealth agencies are required to follow section 341ZE of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 when divesting Commonwealth Heritage listed places.
Working Together: Managing Commonwealth Heritage Places provides further information about the divestment process.