State of the Environment Tasmania Home
Chapters Report contents
Cultural Heritage Index of chapters

Issues

Condition
    Responses

      Introduction

      Cultural landscapes, places and features - farmhouse

      Definitions of cultural heritage are highly varied. Defining heritage can be the product of a single person or a group of people-it can be personal or social. Regardless, a fundamental question remains whether heritage is property ('things'), or a social, intellectual, and spiritual inheritance. It is our contention that human actions, our ideas, customs and knowledge are the most important aspects of heritage. Cultural resource managers seek to understand and conserve these aspects through work on landscapes, places, structures, artefacts, and archives, and through work with individuals and the community (Davison 2000; Aplin 2002).

      UNESCO (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) defines heritage as 'the product and witness of the different traditions and of the spiritual achievements of the past and . . . thus an essential element in the personality of peoples' (Davison 1991). A simpler definition is that heritage is what we value from the past. These definitions reflect what we value or reject in our present surroundings, and anticipate for the future (Davison 1991).

      These definitions imply difficult questions about the purposes of heritage protection. Why save old buildings or fossil landscapes, for example? A continuing trend nationally is to answer this question in terms of economic benefit through tourism activities. This answer suggests that the main value of heritage is its capacity to generate employment and income (Davison 2000). Heritage is an important economic asset, but it is also clearly much more.

      The complexity of these issues requires a wide definition of heritage, one that acknowledges that, at any given time, some meanings of heritage are likely to be more or less important to different groups of people. Community must produce heritage, and community must make decisions about heritage.

      Cultural heritage management in Tasmania is concerned with what has been and what will be retained from the past, and how it will be used in the present and the future. The most fundamental aim is to understand society and its culture, and to use that knowledge to shape Tasmania's present and future.

      Tasmania has inherited the cultural heritage of both Aborigines and our developing multicultural society. It is expressed through surviving heritage landscapes, places and features, objects, archival material, memory, and the social and contemporary significance they each have.

      Tasmanian heritage is traditionally divided into two categories: Aboriginal and historic (including maritime). It continues to be difficult to communicate the diversity and complexity of 35,000 years of ongoing Aboriginal material cultural practices past and present. Equally, the mere two hundred years of non-Aboriginal occupation of Tasmania belies the richness and complexity of the historic and maritime cultural material left behind as our heritage.

      Much of Tasmania's historic heritage has been, and continues to be, imported from other parts of the world. But Tasmania is a distinct melting pot. Examples of heritage with similar cultural, social and economic origin can be found elsewhere in the world, but here the Tasmanian environment and social make-up have shaped it in an unique way. Tasmanian heritage needs to be seen in the context of this State, and in a global context.

      Cultural heritage can also include the intangible records of our past such as memories, stories and songs, ways of life, customs, attitudes and interactions between individuals and communities, and even the words only used in old crafts and trades. Sometimes these intangibles can be collected as oral histories and stored on tapes or videos or, as with crafts, trades, dances and customs, they can be passed on in a living, viable form to the next generation.

      So rich and complex is this suite of heritage that in number and variety it defies easy description, cataloguing, and understanding. Each expression of heritage interrelates with other similar and dissimilar expressions in complex systems, which makes it difficult to discern change over time. The first SoE Report determined that any attempt to provide an intelligible all-inclusive description of this heritage and its components is virtually impossible. The report concluded that there was a danger in artificially imposing guidelines and systems of classification designed to protect individual aspects of heritage because it could ultimately divorce this heritage from the wider context that provides its meaning. Considering these issues, the report indicated that the extent and condition of much of Tasmania's cultural heritage was largely unknown, and this continues to be the case.

      This chapter employs a new strategic and systematic process for the integrated identification and assessment of cultural heritage protection priorities. The State Government and the University of Tasmania are currently developing this process in response to the issues raised and recommendations presented in the previous SoE Report. A peer reviewed Australian Research Council Grant has been awarded to the project, providing further support for the on-going development of the process.

      The process involves procedures adapted from the framework originally created to look objectively at natural heritage values on private land drawn up as part of the Regional Forest Agreement. It relies upon identifying groups of heritage items thematically, and grouping them geographically or typologically, to assist in determining the comparative conservation needs of this heritage. It involves a simple integrated process for the systematic collection of data to drive a comparative assessment of the condition of and pressure on Tasmania's cultural heritage. The indicators employed for assessing condition and pressure are based on the categories of threatened species set out in the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (section 179).

      The system builds on the Burra Charter of the Australian component of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). This Charter provides guidance for the conservation and management of places of cultural significance (cultural heritage places), and recognises the need to involve people in the decision-making process, particularly those that have strong associations with a place.

      The process applied here is designed to look at the myriad of characteristics that go to making up individual heritage items-not just heritage places-and rank them according to their condition and the pressures to which they are currently subjected, or likely to be subjected in the short, medium, or long-term future.

      The first stage of the process entails 'mapping' significant themes in Tasmania's history, and identifying and assessing the condition and pressure of surviving expressions of these themes, such as:

      • cultural landscapes,
      • heritage places and features,
      • heritage objects,
      • archival material, and
      • memory.

      The social and contemporary significance of each of these expressions or 'cultural heritage categories' is also determined and the need for a response is ranked. The condition of each heritage category is scored according to category-specific criteria. To assess pressure, a score for both threat and rarity is given, because either can be an indication that management action is required. The assessment system is designed to be applied flexibly, either across category levels, or for items within each category (for example, separate archival records such as administrative correspondence, minutes, and personal accounts).

      The second stage supplements our understanding of the condition of surviving heritage, through investigation of the capability of agencies and individuals to respond to emerging heritage issues.

      This process identifies the areas and the heritage items likely to be most suitable for conservation management, and to progressively update priorities based on progress in identifying and securing appropriate areas and other heritage items for protection and active management.

      To date, not all aspects of the strategic and systematic process have been developed. It must be considered as a work in progress. In particular, the development of themes and how they are ranked, and how different categories of heritage are linked, remain unresolved. A description of the principles and development requirements for this work-in-progress are available: Understanding and Defining Heritage Assets.

      This chapter applies the above strategic and systematic process in an assessment of the condition and pressures of the surviving cultural heritage associated with the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station, and provides a more general report on the various initiatives, programs and legislation that have been developed since the previous SoE Report (1997). The cultural heritage categories have been reported on through separate issue reports. A separate case study is also provided that demonstrates the integrated process of the scoring system for all of the cultural heritage categories in relation to the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station.

      The richness of Tasmania's cultural heritage has been spectacularly reconfirmed by popular and specialist observations during the last five years. The volume and quality of sites, structures, and ideas, knowledge and customs of the peoples of Tasmania-the original people who lived on the land over the past thirty millennia and the more recent history of the last two centuries-continues to benefit the Tasmanian community and visitors to our State. The concern raised in the previous SoE Report still remains: that this heritage is under stress because of inattention, a poor information base, and bad practices. Increased protection of historic heritage values has been gained through the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 and the formation of the Tasmanian Heritage Council and the Department of Tourism, Parks, Heritage and Arts.

      Contributors

      Many people and organisations have assisted greatly in compiling the State of the Environment Report. For this chapter, the Commission would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of the following:

      Robyn Eastley, Caroline Evans, Brendan Lennard, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Sean McPhail, Brett Noble, Shane Roberts, Jim Russell, Stephen Waight, Fiona Wells, Elspeth Wishart.

      Quick links to: Home | Contents | Chapters | Indicators | Case studies | Recommendations | Sources | Search | Glossary off


        RPDC logo

        Contact the Commission on:
      email: soe@justice.tas.gov.au
      Phone: (03) 6233 2795 (within Australia)
      Fax: (03) 6233 5400 (within Australia)
      Or mail to: RPDC, GPO Box 1691, Hobart, TAS, 7001, Australia
       


      Last Modified: 14 Dec 2006
      URL: http://soer.justice.tas.gov.au/2003/her/6/index.php
      You are directed to a disclaimer and copyright notice governing the information provided.