About world heritage
World Heritage sites are places that are important to and belong to everyone, no matter where they are located. They have universal value that transcends the importance they hold for one particular nation.
These qualities are expressed in the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention).
The World Heritage Convention aims to promote cooperation among nations to protect heritage from around the world that is of such outstanding universal value that its conservation is important for current and future generations.
The World Heritage Committee
Australia has recently completed their term as member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, securing the seat from 2017 to 2021. The Committee consists of 21 members, elected every 2 years from the 194 countries that are a party to the World Heritage Convention.
The Committee makes decisions on World Heritage property nominations and state of conservation matters worldwide. It plays a vital role in the protection and celebration of natural and cultural sites around the world that hold Outstanding Universal Value. Some sites on the World Heritage List include the Great Wall of China, the Lascaux Caves of France, Machu Pichu, the Galapagos Islands, the Pyramids of Giza and the Tropical Rainforests of Borneo.
Australia has 20 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, including iconic sites such as Sydney Opera House, Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kakadu, the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, our mammal fossil sites at Riversleigh and Naracoorte, and the Great Barrier Reef – places that are vital to the cultural, social and economic fabric of our nation. Australia has more natural World Heritage sites than any other country.
Australia was a World Heritage Committee member, securing the seat from 2017-2021.
During our 2017 – 2021 term, Australia worked to strengthen the operation of the Committee, placing emphasis on the effective management of existing properties, and encouraging greater geographic balance in the list and more focus on listing natural places of Outstanding Universal Value.
Australia continues to be an active contributor to the policy and technical work that underpins the integrity of the World Heritage Convention. We are working to place the World Heritage system on a stable financial foundation and to enhance the World Heritage brand, so that it continues to be an effective drawcard for visitors to our sites of outstanding universal significance.
The World Heritage List
World Heritage sites that are nominated for World Heritage listing are inscribed on the list only after they have been carefully assessed as representing the best examples of the world's cultural and natural heritage. Australia currently has 20 properties on the World Heritage List.
Only the Australian Government can nominate Australian places for entry on this list. The World Heritage Committee assesses nominated places against set criteria and makes the final decision as to the places that are included on the World Heritage List.
To qualify for inscription on the World Heritage List, nominated properties must have values that are outstanding and universal. The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention provide guidance to the World Heritage Committee in deciding which nominations should be included on the List. These guidelines state that nominations should be based on cultural, natural and/or mixed cultural and natural criteria.
There are many benefits to a property being inscribed on the World Heritage List, including increased tourist visitation, increases in employment opportunities and income for local communities, and better management and protection of the place. Listing is often accompanied by greater scrutiny of a place, given its internationally acknowledged importance.
A variety of management arrangements are in place or planned for each Australian property on the World Heritage List.
Notification of development proposals
State Parties to the World Heritage Convention are invited to inform the World Heritage Committee of developments that may affect the outstanding universal value of a World Heritage property.
- Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention
- The World Heritage Committee, the main body in charge of the implementation of the Convention, has developed precise criteria for the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List and for the provision of international assistance under the World Heritage Fund.