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Teaching Heritage

Board of Studies NSW

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SubSection MarkerHeritage and Public Policy

In this section you can read the heritage views of Australians who advocate for wider representation in heritage policy and decision making. The Burra Charter (1992) is one of three documents that sets out the principles for maintaining and actively managing Australian places of natural and cultural significance. The pamphlet included here explains the basic principles underpinning heritage in Australia: it is the starting point for understanding how heritage operates in this country.

Liaison between experts and community members aims to make the right decision s about what to preserve and the future uses of preserved items and places. But, community members can question the motives of the listening professionals. In some cases, heritage practitioners fail to grasp the values and attitudes of grassroots.

Chris Johnston comments: "In each city, and certainly in many rural localities, communities have spoken up about places that they value, despite the dismissal of such places as insignificant by the experts. This deep sense of attachment to place has not been adequately defined by our current heritage assessment methods." Johnston belongs to a group of practitioners advocating an increased role for the community in heritage decisions.

Approaches to heritage evolving in countries such as Mexico and New Zealand support community members who inherit items, places, traditions and beliefs of cultural significance. The Mexican Declaration of Oaxaca argues that ‘those who create our heritage, and for whom it is part of their daily lives, offer the best means for its conservation through the continuity of traditional practices’. The declaration recognises that the community will fight for what it values and work to preserve what it considers important to future generations.

In Australia, educational initiatives in civics and citizenship coincide with revised approaches in professional approaches to heritage. A civil society gives the right to all citizens or members of a community to take part in community decision-making. Australians of all age groups need information and skills to think critically about heritage issues and, ultimately, to influence decisions in this area.

In its approach to heritage management The Australian Heritage Commission external link emphasises the need to identify and include all those individuals and groups with an interest in preserving items and places. The Commission recommends that practitioners talk to local council, property owners, indigenous custodians, ethnic groups, conservation groups, developers and industry groups.

We include excerpts from the discussion paper Today Shapes Tomorrow. Go to external link for the full article. This paper is a response to a worldwide program aimed at educating people about the global responsibility of environmental protection. Peter Garrett and Robert Hughes are both observers of the reckless development experienced in Sydney over recent decades. Disregard for the city’s natural and built heritage is the focus of their Annual Heritage Lectures for the National Trust (Garrett 1999; Hughes 1998). Graeme Davison raises the idea of a democratic heritage in an excerpt from his discussion of heritage meanings in Heritage Handbook (1991).

Jack Mundey, Chairman of the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, shares his views of the continuing fight to preserve areas and places of importance to Sydneysiders with Geraldine O’Brien. Mundey compares the challenges now with those during the 1970’s Greenbans. Chris Johnson and David Marr presented arguments on the Sydney experience of conservation and modernity at the 1998 Heritage Office Lecture. The National Trust’s reflections magazine covered the issues surrounding the development of Walsh Bay on Sydney Harbour. You can read varying perspectives on this development here. Peter Kingston tells how he uses artwork to draw attention to heritage concerns such as Walsh Bay.

Lucy Taksa, Paul Rainbird and Michael Clarke uncover some areas of heritage that are currently under or un- represented, including industrial heritage and the heritage of social and political activism. You can also find in this section a copy of the National Trust’s 11 Steps pamphlet aimed at assisting community members to access heritage information and become involved in heritage decisions.


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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