Articles

What is Cultural Heritage Significance in Victoria?

An Overview on Cultural Heritage Significance

As part of Victoria’s set of cultural heritage legislations, the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) is intended to protect places and objects of cultural heritage significance. Statutory heritage protection has a wide range and scope, and includes places, objects, and archaeological sites. With the establishment and maintenance of the Victorian Heritage Register, and Heritage Inventory, the Register and Inventory play a significant role with recording places and objects with cultural heritage significance, and archaeological sites that have archaeological value.

In this article, we address the frequently asked questions regarding cultural heritage significance, including:

Are there state level cultural heritage legislation in other parts of Australia?

Cultural heritage is recognised in Australia, and statutory protection have been legislated to conserve and protect places and objects of cultural heritage significance. This recognition is reflected in state level heritage protection legislations found across each State in Australia. In summary, these include:

StatesLegislation
New South Wales (NSW)Heritage Act 1977
Victoria (Vic)Heritage Act 2017
Queensland (Qld)Queensland Heritage Act 1992
South Australia (SA)Heritage Places Act 1993
Western Australia (WA)Heritage Act 2018
Tasmania (Tas)Historical Cultural Heritage Act 1995

While heritage legislations in other parts of Australia are briefly summarised as an overview, this topic focus on how Victoria’s heritage legislation, the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic), applies to places and objects of cultural heritage significance.

How does the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) apply to cultural heritage significance?

The Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) succeeded its predecessor, the Heritage Act 1995 (Vic) [repealed]. Notwithstanding, the purposes in the current statute continue to substantively reflect its predecessor. A summary of the purposes set out in the Act is thematically listed:

PurposeSummary
Heritage CultureTo provide for the protection and conservation of Victoria’s heritage culture.
Heritage RegisterTo establish the Victorian Heritage Register for the registration of places and objects.
Heritage InventoryTo establish a Heritage Inventory for the recording of archaeological sites and approved sites of archaeological value.
Heritage CouncilTo establish the Heritage Council to perform functions in relation to cultural heritage.
Heritage FundT establish a Heritage Fund to provide for the conservation and management of cultural heritage.
World Heritage ListTo provide for the management of places included in the World Heritage List.
Other MeasuresTo create offences and other enforcement measures to protect and conserve cultural heritage.

Notably, the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage is recognised in statute with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic).

How does the Executive Director maintain the Heritage Register and Heritage Inventory?

To administer and maintain the Heritage Register and Heritage Inventory, the statutory role and function of Executive Director is maintained by the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic). As part of the Executive Director’s functions, they are thematically summarised in the table:

FunctionsSummary
Heritage RegisterTo establish and maintain the Heritage Register.
Heritage CouncilTo recommend to the Heritage Council, the registration or removal of any place or object in the Heritage Register, or amendment of the Heritage Register.
 
Furthermore, another function is to report to the Heritage Council on all actions or decisions taken by the Executive Director relating to nomination for registration, permits and any other matters that the Heritage Council requires a report.
InventoryTo establish and maintain the Heritage Inventory.
Permits and ApplicationsTo determine applications for permits and consents under the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic).
PublicationsTo make and publish guidelines for nomination of places and objects, applications for permits, applications for consents, the assessment.
Investigations and DocumentationsTo investigate and document registered places and objects, and other cultural heritage.
World HeritageTo prepare World Heritage Strategy Plans.
Other FunctionsTo perform any functions conferred on the Executive Director as provided in the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic).

What is the Heritage Register?

The Heritage Register is established by the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) and the records contained in the Heritage Register is maintained by the Executive Director. Broadly, the Heritage Register is intended to provide for the registration of places and objects that have state-level cultural heritage significance, and to conserve Victoria’s cultural heritage. At present, the Heritage Register has over 2,400 places and objects determined to be of state-level significance.

The content of places and objects that should be recorded in the Heritage Register is thematically listed in the summary table:

RecordSummary
Places and ObjectsAll registered places and objects of State-level cultural heritage significance should be recorded on the Heritage Register.
ObjectsAll objects integral to registered places should be recorded on the Heritage Register.
World Heritage ListAny place in Victoria that is included in the World Heritage Register should be recorded on the Heritage Register.
Historic ShipwrecksAll historic shipwrecks and historic shipwreck artefacts to the extent they are known should be recorded on the Heritage Register.
Heritage Act 1995 (Vic) [repealed]All places and objects included in the Heritage Register under the Heritage Act 1995 immediately before the commencement of the section 257 should be recorded on the Heritage Register.

Read More: For further information, “What is heritage listed property in Victoria?” explores how property is recorded on the Heritage Register, and an overview on the implications when a property is heritage listed.

Do you need legal advice? Let’s start a conversation to address your queries. Call us on (03) 5331 1244 to get in touch and arrange an appointment with one of our lawyers.

You can also connect with us by filling out your details and telling us about your information for legal advice below:

Contact Form

What is the Heritage Inventory?

The Heritage Inventory is established by the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) and the record in the Heritage Inventory is maintained by the Executive Director. The content that should be recorded in the Heritage Inventory is thematically listed in the summary table:

RecordSummary
Archaeological SitesAll archaeological sites other than any archaeological sites which are determined by the Executive Director to have low archaeological values, should be recorded on the Heritage Inventory.
Approved SitesAll approved sites of archaeological value should be recorded on the Heritage Inventory.
Heritage Act 1995 (Vic) [repealed]All sites included in the Heritage Inventory under the Heritage Act 1995 immediately before the commencement of section 257, should be recorded on the Heritage Inventory.

What is the meaning of Cultural Heritage Significance?

The Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) prescribes a statutory meaning for cultural heritage:

“Cultural heritage means place and objects of (a) cultural heritage significance; or (b) State-level cultural heritage significance.”

Heritage places and objects should be understood holistically and by its context. This concept is recognised in the Heritage Act 2017. When making the assessment criteria for cultural heritage significance, the Heritage Act 2017 prescribes the following matters that the Heritage Council should consider for inclusion of places and objects in the Heritage Register:

Matters for ConsiderationSummary of Matters
Historical ImportanceThe Heritage Council must have regard to a place or object’s historical importance, association with or relationship to Victoria’s history.
AestheticsThe Heritage Council must have regard to good design or aesthetic characteristics.
ScientificThe Heritage Council have must have regard to scientific or technical innovations or achievements.
CulturalThe Heritage Council must have regard to social or cultural associations.
EducationThe Heritage Council must have regard to the potential to educate, illustrate, or provide further scientific investigation in relation to Victoria’s cultural heritage.
RichnessThe Heritage Council must have regard to the importance in exhibiting a richness, diversity, or unusual integration of features.
RarityThe Heritage Council must have regard to the rarity or uniqueness of a place or object.
RepresentationThe Heritage Council must have regard to the representative nature of a place or object as part of a class or type of places or objects.
MethodThe Heritage Council must have regard to the methods of establishing the extent to which land or objects nominated for inclusion in the Heritage Register in association with a registered place or a place nominated for inclusion are integral to the State-level cultural heritage significance of the place.
Other Matters The Heritage Council must have regard to any other matter which is relevant to the determination of State-level cultural heritage significance.

The matters prescribed by the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) reflect a qualitative-based system on determining cultural heritage significance. This perspective is also consistent with, and is reflected in, the statutory definition of cultural heritage significance that describes the different types of significance that is of relevance:

“Cultural heritage significance means aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, cultural, historical, scientific or social significance. “

What is the Heritage Council’s Assessment Criteria for Cultural Heritage Significance?

When designing the assessment criteria for cultural heritage significance, the significance threshold is principally a qualitative assessment that requires expertise and special knowledge. Notably, cultural heritage significance has been defined by the Heritage Council, as:

“The minimum level of cultural heritage significance that a place or object must possess to justify its inclusion on the relevant local, state, national or world heritage list.”

The Heritage Council also publicly publish their assessment criterion that is used to determine whether place or object has cultural heritage significance. This is outlined in the table showing the assessment criteria with a summary description.

CriteriaSummary of Assessment
ACriterion A assesses any importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history.
BCriterion B assesses any possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history.
CCriterion C assesses any potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history.
DCriterion D assessed any importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.
ECriterion E assesses any importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.
FCriterion F assesses any importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
GCriterion G assesses any strong or special association with a particular present-day community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.
HCriterion H assesses any special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.

Read More:What is the Cultural Heritage Significance of Lake Wendouree?” provides an exploration on how Lake Wendouree is regarded as a place of significant cultural heritage in Victoria.

Notes and Further Information

When examining cultural heritage places, related topics include how buildings may be readapted. Those related topics explored include:

Lake Wendouree (Heritage Listed) | Heritage Listed Property | Section 32 Statement

Do you need legal advice? Call us on (03) 5331 1244 to get in touch and arrange an appointment with one of our lawyers.

You can also connect with us by filling out your details and telling us about your information for legal advice below:

Contact Form

Authored by:
Ben Franklin, Managing Partner (LIV Accredited Specialist – Property Law), &
Matthew Tran, Lawyer.

Table of Contents