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Media Release
Commonwealth Minister for Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

18 December 2003

Countdown to the Start of New National Heritage System


The protection of Australia's historic, Indigenous and natural heritage will at last be assured with the start of a new national heritage regime on 1 January 2004, Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced today.

From 1 January 2004, amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 come into effect to create a new National Heritage List of places that have outstanding heritage significance to the nation.

"This National List of places will start from scratch," Dr Kemp said. "Australians will be asked to nominate places for the List that reflect on and contribute to Australia's distinctive character and national identity.

"This will be a list of places that resonate for Australians. It will include places that define critical moments in our country's history, inspire us or reflect our beliefs or show important features of our ancient continent."

Dr Kemp said the Howard Government in the 2003-04 Budget committed an additional $13.3 million over the next four years, providing a total package of $52.6 million to administer and fund the new identification and protection system, introduced through the Distinctively Australian program.

The changes to the Government's role in heritage protection come after a 1997 Council of Australian Governments agreement to reduce duplication across governments.

"Since then, the Howard Government has undertaken six years of extensive and comprehensive community consultation," Dr Kemp said. "This new system has the widest support from State, Territory and national heritage bodies across Australia."

Dr Kemp said the new Distinctively Australian heritage system would also require the Australian Government to improve the way it identifies and protects heritage places it owns or manages.

"We will have a new Commonwealth Heritage List that will include identified heritage places on Commonwealth lands and waters or under Australian Government control," he said.

"Australians will also be invited to nominate places to this list and, like the National Heritage Listed places, these places must have a comprehensive management plan."

The Register of the National Estate, formerly administered by the Australian Heritage Commission, will be retained as an important feature of the new system, Dr Kemp said.

"Information about places in the Register of the National Estate will be maintained. Places may be added to the Register, which will continue as a publicly accessible database of Australia's natural and cultural heritage places," he said.

Dr Kemp paid tribute to the outgoing Australian Heritage Commission, which had advised the Australian Government on heritage matters since 1976.

"The Commission has been the premier agency for educating Australians on the protection of our important heritage places for almost three decades," he said.

"It has done so in the absence of any comprehensive legal protection powers and should be acknowledged for the solid foundation it has built that has allowed us to move forward with this exciting and more powerful new system."

More information on nominating places to the new lists and to the Register of the National Estate can be found at www.deh.gov.au/heritage. Fact sheets on Distinctively Australian and images for downloading are available at www.deh.gov.au/heritage/whatsnew.

Commonwealth of Australia