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Teaching Heritage

Board of Studies NSW

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SubSection MarkerHeritage and Land

In this section you can read the heritage views of Australians who place an undeniable value on Australia’s natural environment. Australian literature abounds with attitudes and responses to this continent’s changing lands and landscapes.

The values attached to land are at the heart of discussions between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples over future land uses and management. Pat Dodson’s address to the National Press Club (1996) evoked Aboriginal perspectives towards land. "Many Australians don’t know how to think themselves into the country, the land. They find it hard to think with the land. We Aboriginal people find it hard to think without the land….Iland_resource_toc.phpation, if we respect indigenous culture, then we must respect also their relationship to land, from which every element of pride flows to us."

The issue of land and heritage is a keystone of social, cultural, political and economic debates in contemporary Australia. Some voices proclaim the costs associated with heritage. As governments listen to opposing views and make decision about the nation’s estate, the questions arise: When are financial gains more important that heritage? When is heritage more important than financial gains?

Unlike destruction wrought on the built environment, the natural environment can be resurrected. Throughout Australia volunteers with Landcare, Coastcare, Bush Regeneration and National Heritage Trust projects are working to overcome the effects of land misuse and degradation. In some cases, however, the extent of damage makes environmental repair unviable.

Peter Garrett identifies a common mission for all heritage groups of "working to preserve the built and natural forms that are expressions of a continuing culture". He reflects on the exploitation of land. "Modern Australia has an enviable wealth, due in great measure to whole sale theft and overuse of land. We tend to believe this is the only way to live because it has served our purposes up to now, but the flip side of our genuine achievements, is the destruction of large chunks of our heritage."

In his ABC Boyer Lecture ‘Yothu Yindi – Finding Balance’ Mandawuy Yunupingu discusses the balance of nature that inspires indigenous Australians to create culturally appropriate educational contexts for their peoples.

Pamela Mawbey’s article on a proposed rail network, intersecting Parramatta Park, examines the way transport pressures in expanding cities can put heritage – natural and built – at risk.

  • Pamela Mawbey writes about the escalating transport pressures that threaten the heritage of Parramatta Park.
  • Merlinda Bobis talks to journalist Anthony Dennis about Wollongong’s ‘economic lifeblood of stacks, smog and sooty structures’.

The heritage views of older Sydneysiders are represented in the National Trust’s reflections article ‘Taking heritage to 2000’. James Elder talked to Australians – who between them lived in almost every decade of the 20th century – about their memories of heritage and their predictions for heritage in Australia in the 21st century.

  • High-profile Australians talk to James Elder about their memories of heritage and their hopes and fears for Australia’s heritage in the future.


In building units of work for classroom use with these questions and resources, and for help with designing classroom assessment activities to help gauge whether the outcomes are being achieved you may like to consult the NSW History and Geography Stages 4-5 syllabus outcomes.

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