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Teaching Heritage

Board of Studies NSW

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Tracy Ireland

School of Archaeology, University of Sydney

Okay, well in the 1960s I think that we can see a process beginning where the word ‘heritage’ takes on some new meanings, and I think the most important of these new meanings [is] that it starts to become a material concept, rather than the less tangible concept of literature and religion that I was talking about earlier. So heritage comes to be seen as aspects of the environment that people see as reflecting the most important parts about their past. So, the way in which this concept grew in Australia very much reflects, I think, the great social and cultural and political changes that were taking place in Australia in the 1960s. It was a time of challenge I think to the traditional colonial order in Australia, and I think that we can see things such as challenges to the White Australian Policy, the first Commissions into Aboriginal land rights, The Vietnam Moratoriums and very importantly of course, the growth of the environmental conservation movement. These very much reflected people’s feelings I think that they were no longer content to see Australia as a colonial outpost, they wanted greater values to be put on Australian culture and on the Australian environment, and so linked into that was this feeling that they didn’t want Australia to be reliant on foreign investment which exploited the Australian environment, and ideas about the material heritage were linked into those broader cultural movements, and aspects of these, which are often called the ‘New Nationalism’, which is often linked to Whitlam’s coming to power in 1972, show that these ideas about heritage were very much linked in with the idea that there was a distinct Australian national identity, or an Australian identity at least, and that there were things of value in Australian culture and in the Australian environment that society wanted to have recognised more explicitly, and so the governments of that time [worked with this concern] and I think various historians have shown that it was actually a bipartisan movement, even though strongly associated with Whitlam today, there is some evidence that previous concern with government had started moving along the track that Whitlam actually implemented.

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