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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp MP

21 August 2003

Quantum Leap for National Heritage

The Howard Government has passed landmark legislation that will, for the first time, establish a truly national scheme for the identification and conservation of Australia's unique heritage places.

The passage of the heritage bills this morning by the Senate ushers in a new era for Australia's important natural, historical and indigenous heritage places.

Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, hailed the passage of the bills, saying "for the first time, Australians will be able to nominate and protect those places that define us as Australians, that tell us stories about who we are and how we came to be the nation we are today."

"The new Heritage Bills establish a National Heritage List. Anyone can make nominations of sites to be entered on the National Heritage List, which will provide real protection for the heritage values of the places through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

"The Government will appoint a group of heritage experts to be called the Australian Heritage Council, which will assess the nominations and make recommendations to the Minister about the heritage values of nominated places.

"The Government will be starting a national conversation with the Australian community about the places that contribute to our distinctive character. All Australians have an interest in identifying and protecting our nationally significant historic, indigenous and natural heritage places.

"On top of the National Heritage List, the Howard Government will lead the way in good practice by comprehensively protecting the Commonwealth's own heritage places through the establishment of a Commonwealth Heritage List."

The Minister thanked the independent Senators without whose support the legislation would not have passed.

"Without the constructive and positive engagement of independent Senators, in particular Senator Meg Lees, whose long standing interest in heritage issues is well known, this quantum leap forward in heritage protection would not have been achieved," he said. "The Government accepted significant amendments from Senator Lees to improve the transparency and operation of the new legislation."

The Minister also acknowledged the support of heritage bodies across Australia, including the Australian Council of National Trusts (ACNT), the Australian branch of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the National Cultural Heritage Forum, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Humane Society of Australia and the Tasmanian Conservation Trust.

The passage of the bills triggers new funding of $13.3 million over the next four years - announced in the recent budget - providing a total package of $52.6 million to ensure places of national significance to Australia's people, its history and its identity are better protected and understood.

Australia's new heritage laws

Key features

Australia has changed the way it protects its national heritage places. New laws that were passed in the Australian Parliament on 21August will combine the most successful elements of the old system with a number of new features including:

The National Heritage List

The Commonwealth Heritage List

The Australian Heritage Council

The Register of the National Estate

Distinctively Australian

For further information, contact Bruce Leaver (Department of Environment and Heritage - Heritage Division) on 02 6274 2100

Commonwealth of Australia