Recognising Parks Victoria's Unique Heritage Work
Monday 17 April, 2023
Did you know that we manage more than parks? We’ll let you in on a little secret – we actually manage the largest and most diverse collection of non-Aboriginal cultural heritage places on public land in Victoria. International Day for Monuments and Sites (IDMS) on 18 April provides an opportunity to explore the unique heritage work Parks Victoria undertakes and understand why it is so important. The IDMS also allows us to reflect on this year’s theme, Heritage Changes, which focuses on how heritage research and practices can adapt and become more resilient in the face of climate change.
What is heritage?
Heritage is recognised as tangible or intangible evidence of the layers of human cultural activity, occupation, and use over time. It tells us about the society we have formed, and provides us with links to past events, processes, and people. Heritage includes places and objects valued by people today with the view of protecting or managing it for future generations to also experience. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples are connected to the oldest continuing living cultures in the world. To find out more about how Parks Victoria works in partnership with Traditional Owners to protect Victoria’s cultural landscapes, and how we recognise and support Traditional Owner’s rights - check out our Managing Country Together Framework.
Non-Aboriginal cultural heritage
Parks Victoria manages the largest and most diverse collection of non-Aboriginal cultural heritage places on public land in the state. This includes:
- historic buildings
- cultural landscapes
- significant trees
- archaeological sites
We manage six nationally-listed heritage landscapes including the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park. There are also more than 3,000 known heritage assets across our estate, including around 300 substantial buildings or structures, 70 huts, numerous shipwrecks and around 1,200 registered historical archaeological sites (and potentially more, with only a small proportion of the estate properly surveyed for archaeology).
Some well-known places include Mount Buffalo Chalet, Point Nepean Quarantine Station and Fort Nepean forts, the Cement Creek experimental plantations at Warburton, Maisie’s Plots research areas in the Alps, six lightstations including Wilsons Promontory, and Joint Managed places including Buchan Caves, which is managed in partnership with the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC).
We also maintain a collection of movable heritage objects located right across Victoria - with around 17,000 items documented to date. These include artworks at Werribee Park Mansion, personal items and farm implements at Murchison’s Days Mill and thousands of objects associated with the lightstations.
Responsible for guiding the management of this expansive collection of places and collections, Parks Victoria’s heritage team provides strategy and policy, advises on conservation works and maintenance programs, creates partnerships, community participation and seeks reuse and promotion of these places.
Why we do it
By maintaining this collection of heritage places, assets, landscapes and objects, we are also preserving the stories associated with them – providing the community with opportunities to re-engage with, reinterpret and learn from the past.
Our heritage work also helps encourage people to visit heritage places, delivering a range of benefits to regional economies.
As custodians of important places for the community, we also have statutory obligations at a local, state and federal level to conserve and maintain these heritage places.
Heritage and climate change
As highlighted by this year’s IDMS theme, climate change not only poses a threat to natural environments and the species that inhabit them, the impact of climate change will also affect many places and objects of heritage significance across the world.
In partnership with Heritage Victoria, the Heritage Council of Victoria have started a project to understand how the state’s cultural heritage places and objects will be impacted by climate change, so that policy and guidance can be created where it will be of most benefit. Parks Victoria’s heritage team is helping to feed into this project, with the Amazon Shipwreck at Inverloch among a number of our organisation’s heritage sites included as case studies in the first stage of the Heritage and Climate Change report.
What’s next for heritage at Parks Victoria?
The World Heritage bid for the Central Victorian Goldfields is currently being led by a consortium of 13 local councils. The bid is likely to include a number of Parks Victoria managed heritage places, including areas within Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park.
The Victorian Government has also invested $16.5 million to undertake essential conservation works at six iconic heritage places across the Parks Victoria estate, including repairs to the roof at Werribee Park Mansion, conservation works to Fort Nepean, Point Hicks Lighthouse, and at Cape Schanck and Wilsons Promontory Lightstations.