Our Thoughts About the NSW Heritage Act Review
The NSW Heritage Act is under review. As heritage practitioners, we value the opportunity to contribute. GML has prepared a detailed response to the Discussion Paper.
At GML, we are firmly of the view that the core objective of the NSW Heritage Act (Heritage Act) ‘to conserve the environmental heritage of NSW’ is just as important now as it was when it was first introduced in 1977. One of the key aims of the reform is to make ‘heritage easy’. We consider the concepts of ‘making heritage easy’, ‘putting heritage to work’ and ‘making heritage relevant’ problematic. For First Nations people, without standalone heritage legislation, the legacy of colonisation and continuing destruction of their heritage, it’s hard to imagine heritage ever being easy. We think reform to the Heritage Act can wait. Reform of the State’s Aboriginal heritage legislation is more pressing and urgent.
The Heritage Act is not broken. Instead, the NSW government should focus on strong leadership, adequate resourcing, and supporting the creation of a culture that values heritage because it special and part of our unique story and identity. Reform needs to begin with the State placing priority on helping people understand why heritage is important, improved resourcing and developing a stronger culture of respect for heritage generally.
It is our view that the ‘problem’ with heritage is the direct result of administrative, resourcing, and educational shortcomings rather than the Act itself, or the broader heritage management system.