What is the cultural significance of Lake Wendouree?

An Overview on Lake Wendouree’s Cultural Significance

Lake Wendouree as a present-day landmark and destination to visit at Ballarat, is a place that is appreciated for its recreational and leisurely use. It is a place of cultural heritage significance recognised at local, state and national level. Adjacent to Lake Wendouree is the Ballarat Botanical Gardens reflecting the importance placed on gardens as cultural and recreational places in Ballarat. Notably, Lake Wendouree is generally enclosed by parklands, tree plantings, built structures, and reserves, and is situated north-west from Ballarat’s Central Business District. 

On 26 August 2022, the Heritage Council determined that Lake Wendouree was a State-level cultural heritage significance and was to be included in the Victorian Heritage Register. 

This article addresses the following questions, in an overview:

What is the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic)?

The Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) came after its predecessors, the Heritage Act 1995 (Vic) [repealed]. It forms part of Victoria’s set of statutes involving cultural heritage that are aimed to preserve places of cultural heritage significance. Particularly, the Act also establishes the Heritage Council, and Victorian Heritage Register. This is reflected in the Act’s purpose that is thematically summarised:

Cultural HeritageThe Act’s purpose is to provide for the protection and conservation of Victoria’s cultural heritage.
InstitutionsThe Act’s purpose is to establish Victoria’s Heritage Register, Heritage Inventory, Heritage Council, and Heritage Fund.
World Heritage ListThe Act’s purpose is to provide for the management of places in the World Heritage List
Other MeasuresThe Act’s purpose is to create other measures to protect and conserve cultural heritage.

Read More: For further information on heritage listed properties, “What is heritage listed property in Victoria?“, explores what happens if a property is heritage listed.

Who made the determination for Lake Wendouree to be heritage listed?

Whether a place or object should be included as part of the Victorian Heritage Register is determined by the Heritage Council. The Heritage Council comprises ten (10) members that have particular set of characteristics, which may include: expertise, experience, understanding, or appointments. 

In making the determination of Lake Wendouree as a State-level cultural heritage significance, three members of the Heritage Council made the determination. 

Is Lake Wendouree recorded on the Victorian Heritage Register?

Lake Wendouree is recorded as a heritage listed place on the Victorian Heritage Register. In summary, the Victorian Heritage register is a record of: 

  • all places and objects with state-level cultural heritage significance that are registered;
  • any place in the State that is included in the World Heritage List; 
  • all objects integral to registered place that are registered under Part 3 of the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic) 
  • all historical shipwrecks and artefacts to the extent they are known; and
  • all places and objects included in the Heritage Register under the historical and repealed Heritage Act 1995 (Vic). 

When a place or object is recorded as part of the Victorian Heritage Register, they will be recorded under particular set of categories as prescribed by the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic). The Victorian Heritage List is currently a list that contains more than 2,400 places and objects assessed as state-level significance and is a list that reflects Victoria’s recognition to formally preserve places of cultural heritage significance.

How is the assessment criteria used to assess for “cultural heritage significance”? 

As part of the responsibilities of the Heritage Council, they are required to develop, revise and publish assessment criteria to be used when considering cultural heritage significance of places and objects, and whether those places or objects should be included as part of the Victorian Heritage Register.

Generally, when developing the assessment criteria, the Heritage Council must have regard to the following: 

  • historical importance with Victoria’s history; 
  • good design or aesthetics characteristics;
  • scientific, technical innovations, or achievements; 
  • social or cultural associations;
  • potential to educate, illustrate or provide further scientific investigation to relation to Victoria’s cultural heritage; 
  • importance with exhibiting richness, diversity or unusual integration of features; 
  • place or object’s rarity or uniqueness;
  • the nature of a place or object as part of a class or type of place or object; 
  • the method of establishing for nomination 
  • any other matter relevant to the determination of State-level cultural heritage significance. 

Based on these factors that forms part of the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic), the Heritage Council regularly publishes to the public and updates their assessment criteria that is used as the basis to assess places and objects for cultural heritage significance. 

Other than the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic), places and objects of cultural heritage significance can also be protected through other statutory vehicles and tools, such as Local Heritage Overlays, National Heritage List, and World Heritage List.

Why was Lake Wendouree determined to be a place of cultural heritage significance? 

Lake Wendouree was recognised as a State-level cultural heritage for its “amenity as a place of leisure and enjoyment for members of the community”. The decision was reached based on the cultural heritage assessment criteria, which assessed:

  • Criterion A: Importance to the course, or pattern of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion B: Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion C: Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion D: Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of class of cultural places or environments
  • Criterion E: Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics
  • Criterion F: Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
  • Criterion G: Strong or special association with a particular present-day community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.
  • Criterion H: Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.

By setting standards for cultural heritage assessment, the role of criteria and a significance threshold for cultural heritage assessment has been described by the Heritage Council, as:

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

In summary, Lake Wendouree is formally part of the Victorian Heritage Register, and publicly recognised in the State of Victoria with state-level cultural heritage significance, as:

• having an importance to the course or pattern of Victoria’s cultural history (Criterion A)

Lake Wendouree has a historically close association with the 1956 Olympic Games, and for the development of water-based sports and recreation in Victoria. Further, Lake Wendouree, together with the Ballarat Botanical Garden has been a “popular destination for leisure activities since the mid-nineteenth century”.

• demonstrating principal characteristics of a class of cultural place or objects (Criterion D)

Lake Wendouree is an example of an urban lake in Victoria that shows fine landscape characteristics, mature trees, early boat sheds, tram and picnic shelters, park furniture, and monuments with a “higher degree of historical relevance than those found at other urban lakes”.

• exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics (Criterion E) 

Lake Wendouree is aesthetically significant and “carefully designed and developed from the mid-nineteenth century to provide a distinctive and high appealing sensory experience”.

Heritage Listed Property | Cultural Heritage Significance

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

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