Aesthetic Values of the Great Barrier Reef

Heritage Significance Assessment

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities


Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is a vast, complex and highly dynamic land and seascape that was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981.

To underpin effective management of aesthetic values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, this project developed a new systematic approach to assessing aesthetics that accommodated the nature and scale of this property.

Equally important, the method encapsulates the idea that aesthetic values arise in the experience of place and sensory responses to it by recognising both environmental and experiential attributes of these values. Our research defining and ‘conceptually mapping’ these attributes provides a new approach to understanding and managing aesthetic values in large ‘natural’ landscapes.

The project was commissioned in response to an IUCN monitoring mission in 2012 that concluded that a sound basis for management of all aspects of the OUV of the Reef was needed given the threats to the property from land-based development, expanding ports and shipping and climate change. IUCN noted in particular that the aesthetic values of the property were poorly understood.

Read the finished report: Defining the Aesthetic Values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area February 2013

Read the journal article: Beautiful One Day: Assessing the World Heritage Aesthetic Values of the Great Barrier Reef (Chris Johnston and Anita Smith, Historic Environment Vol. 26 No. 2, 2014)