On 19 April 2011, Heritage Minister John Castrilli released the State’s first cultural heritage policy, which he said “establishes a framework to ensure a secure future for significant heritage places”. One of the initiatives under the policy is a comprehensive review of the Act. We welcome the release of the policy and the review of the Act. The Heritage Act Review consultation paper, links to the Cultural Heritage Policy and the Minister’s media statement are available on the Heritage Council website. As Greens spokesperson for Heritage Lynn drafted a submission to the review.

Lynn has noted some of the shortcomings of the policy. For example, the policy clearly states that:

“Heritage can incorporate both the tangible and intangible, in the form of “landmarks, places, buildings and contents, spaces, views and the stories associated with them.”

The focus of the policy is primarily on built heritage with a cursory mention of indigenous heritage, natural landscapes and care of cultural materials such as collections and documents. However this policy states that these aspects of our cultural heritage are “the responsibility of, and are administered by, other agencies.” Yet these agencies are not defined and it is not clear how they are to be directed and empowered to fulfil that responsibility. Despite being a cultural heritage policy no further reference is made to “cultural heritage” in either the objectives or future direction section of the policy.

Safeguarding our natural and cultural heritage is a key goal of the Greens. While lip service is paid in the policy to a holistic approach to heritage, this is something which the WA Greens genuinely espouse, and we believe that communities do too. In response to the policy and the Minister’s statement Lynn issued a media release welcoming the announcement of a review of the Heritage Act but noting that the policy was short on detail, and in particular, that “Natural, cultural and aboriginal heritage have thus far been poorly recognised and inadequately protected.”

Another shortcoming of the Act which the Greens believe should be addressed by this review is ‘demolition by neglect.’ As the consultion paper points out:

“There is nothing in the Act that requires an owner to carry out maintenance or repairs to a Registered place. Under the current Act, it is completely legal for an owner to allow a Registered place to crumble into disrepair (so long as the owner does nothing to speed the process along).”

Already this year, the Greens supported stiffer penalties for demolition of heritage property. However, there remains inadequate protection for heritage properties that fall into disrepair and neglect.

Useful Links:

Greens (WA) Policy on Heritage

Submission to the Heritage Act Review

Initiative to Protect Heritage Properties

Heritage Council of WA

The Fremantle Society

The National Trust of Australia (WA)