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Heritage identification and protection

New South Wales


Heritage Amendment Act 2009

Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974

Heritage Council

The Heritage Council of NSW was established under the NSW Heritage Act, 1977. Its composition and powers are now governed by the Heritage Amendment Act 2009. It is an advisory body appointed by the Minister responsible for heritage in NSW, to reflect a cross-section of community, government and conservation expertise. The only independent organisation with the right to nominate a panel of names from which the Minister selects one is now, however, the National Trust of Australia (New South Wales).


The Heritage Council makes decisions about the care and protection of heritage places and items that have been identified as being significant to the people of NSW. The Council provides advice on heritage matters to the Minister responsible for heritage in NSW. It recommends to the Minister places and objects for listing on the State Heritage Register. The Heritage Council receives advice and administrative support from the Heritage Branch.


The Heritage Council is appointed by the NSW Government to:


The State Heritage Register is a list of heritage items of particular importance to the people of NSW. It includes items of particular importance to specific groups in the community, such as Aboriginal communities, religious groups or people with a common ethnic background. An item is listed on the Register when the Minister for Planning agrees to the Heritage Council’s recommendation that it is of State heritage significance.


The Heritage Council has developed criteria to assess items to be included on the Register and it advises the community on how to apply them.


The register lists a diverse range of over 1,500 items, in both private and public ownership. To be listed, an item must be significant for the whole of NSW.


Anyone can nominate a place or object for listing on the State Heritage Register.


What is included on the Register

The State Heritage Register lists a diverse range of places, buildings and objects including: Aboriginal places, buildings, objects, monuments, gardens, natural landscapes, archaeological sites, shipwrecks, relics, streets, industrial structures, public buildings, shops, factories, houses, religious buildings, schools, conservation precincts, jetties, bridges and movable items such as church organs and ferries.


It is not only grand mansions or well-known public buildings that are listed on the State Heritage Register. Many different kinds of historical evidence and remains provide information to help us understand our past and present.


For an item to be added to the register an assessment of significance is made.

Criteria for inclusion on the register

A place or object has ‘heritage significance’ if it satisfies, except in very special circumstances, at least two of the following heritage significance criteria:

a) an item is important in the course, or pattern, of NSW’s cultural or natural history;

b) an item has strong or special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in NSW’s cultural or natural history;

c) an item is important in demonstrating aesthetic characteristics and/or a high degree of creative or technical achievement in NSW;

d) an item has strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group in NSW for social, cultural or spiritual reasons;

e) an item has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of NSW’s cultural or natural history;

f) an item possesses uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of NSW’s cultural or natural history;

g) an item is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of NSW’s

  • cultural or natural places; or
  • cultural or natural environments.

Under the Amendment Act the former requirement that to be considered for State listing an item needs to meet only one of the seven assessment criteria has now been changed to the new requirement that, except in very special circumstances, at least two criteria must be met.


An innovative change is the introduction of thematic listings. The State Heritage Register Thematic Listings Program is a strategic initiative to maintain a balanced and credible State Heritage Register that accurately records the most significant places and objects in, and which reflects the cultural richness and diversity of, the State of New South Wales.


The recent review of the Heritage Act recommended that the Heritage Council set ‘thematically based forward program’ to provide a strategic and systematic framework for managing the State Heritage Register listing processes. The Heritage Council has commenced implementing this recommendation at a policy level and the Minister has endorsed a set of four themes that will be targeted between 2009 and 2010. The four current themes and reasons for their selection are:



The mission of the Heritage Branch is “working with the community to know, value and care for our heritage”.


The work of the Heritage Branch includes:


The work of the Heritage Branch is guided by the Heritage Council of NSW, a body appointed by the Minister responsible for heritage in NSW, to reflect a cross-section of community, government and conservation expertise.

Government heritage grant programs

The Heritage Branch, NSW Department of Planning runs a diverse and targeted funding program to assist owners and managers of state significant heritage items, Aboriginal heritage and local government heritage management in New South Wales. For information on applications click here. A grant that will be of interest to historical societies is a grant for historical research and presenting a local history; preparing a local archives collections management plan, or preparing a local photographic collections management plan.


Web page(s) and government agency addresses

Heritage organisations in NSW lists state government heritage agencies, database, legislation and non-statutory heritage sites with links to them.

Visit the Heritage Branch home page, click on the links for information such as Heritage listings.

Visit the introductory heritage funding web page.

The Grants web page provides information for financial assistance through the Heritage Branch.

The Assistance through other sources web page has information on other sources of government heritage assistance such as items owned by State Rail, conservation of war memorials, community documentary heritage, museum and moveable items and archives.

The Aboriginal heritage web page explains what Aboriginal heritage is and how it is protected.

The Movable heritage web page provides information on movable heritage that includes a definition, explains why moveable heritage is important and provides sources of information.

The Publications list web page provides information on publications, guidelines and fact sheets.

A useful web page is WWW links to heritage information.

For more information write to the Heritage Branch, 3 Marist Place, Parramatta NSW 2150 or ring (02) 9873 8500, or email


Other statutory listings

Most of the heritage items on statutory lists in NSW are managed by local councils. This includes over 20,000 individual heritage items listed in Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) and many thousand more within 183 conservation areas. Local councils and their communities are at the forefront of the vital task of conserving the heritage of New South Wales. The Local Government Heritage Resource Centre offers those working in or for local government easy access to information and resources on heritage management specific to local government.


The State Heritage Inventory is an online database maintained by the Heritage Branch and contains over 20,000 heritage items on statutory lists in New South Wales. This information is mainly provided by local councils and most records have basic identification information such as Name, Address and Listing. A search facility, together with tips on how to get the best results from searching, is available at the following web page: Searching the State Heritage Inventory.


Local government authorities, Local Environmental Plans (LEPs).

Information on local government resources and you can either view or download Local Government Heritage Guidelines. Details of heritage items on LEPs can be found on the State Heritage Inventory available through the Heritage Branch’s website.


The focus of heritage management in New South Wales has changed since the introduction of the Heritage Act. Today, local councils play an important role in heritage management by identifying, assessing and managing heritage places and items in their local government area. They fulfil their role through the preparation of local environmental plans, development control, strategic planning, heritage promotion and education. All of these activities are conducted under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.


Many local government authorities provide small grants and/or loans to assist heritage projects and many have the assistance of heritage advisors who are able to help locals with free advice, to find out more visit Assistance through other sources.


Don’t forget to check what is available from your local authority. The City of Sydney has a Heritage Grants programme available for not-for-profit organisations.


An Aboriginal Sites Register is maintained by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Visit the NPWS the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System (AHIMS).

Legislation ensures that Aboriginal heritage must be considered as part of land management. The Department of Environment Climate Change & Water (DECCW) protects Aboriginal heritage through:


Some interesting and useful web pages are Declared Aboriginal places in NSW and Aboriginal cultural heritage conservation, for more information contact 59-61 Goulburn Street, Sydney or ring (02) 9995 5000.


The Heritage Branch has an Aboriginal heritage web page and interesting Adobe file Aboriginal history and heritage: A guide. Sites of great significance can be listed on the NSW Heritage Register.


Non-statutory registers

National Trust of Australia (NSW) does many things, including:



The Trust maintains a Register of landscapes, townscapes, buildings, industrial sites, cemeteries and other items or places which the Trust determines have cultural significance and are worthy of conservation. Currently, there are some 12,000 items listed on the Trust’s Register. They range from railway lines, cemeteries, parks and gardens and wetlands to urban conservation areas and individual buildings.


The National Trust has an officer who can assist with advice on cemetery and industrial heritage. For more information write to GPO Box 518, Sydney 2001, phone (02) 9258 0123 or send an email to


The 20th Century Heritage Society of NSW was founded in 1995, with the aim of protecting and promoting 20th Century architectural and design heritage in the state. Two key elements are fundamental to the Society:

For more information write to The Twentieth Century Heritage Society of NSW, PO Box Q1072 QVB Post Office, Sydney NSW 1230. The phone number is (02) 9878 2511.


Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales has the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection which is open to anyone with an interest in the history of house and garden design and interior furnishing in New South Wales. It includes material across a wide range of formats: architectural pattern books; architectural fragments; wall coverings; floor coverings; manufacturers’ trade catalogues and sample books; garden ornament; fittings (including curtain and blind hardware, door and window furniture); soft furnishings and trimmings; personal papers and manuscripts; pictures; photographs; books and periodicals. The scope of the collection is broad, covering houses and gardens of all kinds and ranging from the 19th century to the present day. We also record significant houses, interiors and gardens in situ, usually on the point of change, through photographic survey, and sometimes through oral history. For information the postal address is The Mint, 10 Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000. The telephone number is (02) 8239 2288 and email address is or


The NSW Professional Historians Association (PHA (NSW) Inc) used to publish an electronic heritage register of places and objects identified by members in the course of their work as having high values of historical significance to NSW and the ACT. The Register is incorporated in the State Heritage Inventory. If you are looking for a professional historian visit the Historians register.

Other agencies and grants

The Royal Australian Historical Society administers two small grant schemes and these are outlined at Grants Programmes. The Heritage Grants are funded by the NSW Heritage Branch and support programs that assist with the publication of local history materials which promote heritage or assist with the conservation of local history archival collections. The Society also administers a fund on behalf of the NSW Ministry for the Arts which assist with the research, writing and publication of local history. For more information phone (02) 9247 8001 or email  


Museums & Galleries NSW (M&G NSW) is the leading agency to develop, support and promote regional, community and public museums and galleries across NSW. They present strategic programs, advocacy and services to a valued, viable and skilled sector.


For an overview on M&G NSW grants click here. The Volunteer Initiated Museum (VIM) Grant Program provides assistance to volunteer-initiated community museums and keeping places in NSW. The VIM Grant Program encourages museum volunteers to build their skills and confidence in both project management and grant applications, by undertaking progressively more complex projects and ultimately addressing the sustainability of their museums.


M&G NSW also has an established Fellowship and Mentorship Program that provides an exciting opportunity for paid staff from regional and remote museums and galleries in NSW to access expertise and programs in state/national/international cultural institutions for the purpose of professional development.


Managed by M&G NSW and funded by Arts NSW, the program provides professional staff with an opportunity to extend their knowledge, enhance their skill levels and increase their networking base through access to the resources and staff of larger cultural institutions.


Or write to Museums & Galleries NSW, 43-51 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011, or phone (02) 9358 1760 or email  


The NSW Government offers financial assistance for arts and cultural activities in NSW through Arts NSW, a division of Communities NSW. Arts NSW are the NSW Government’s arts policy and funding body. For more information email, or phone: (02) 9228 5533, Toll Free number (in NSW: 1800 358 594 or National Relay Service (for use by hearing and speech impaired people) phone 133 677.


Of interest are the NSW Premier’s History Awards conducted in association with the History Council of New South Wales. This prestigious award that was established in 1997 to honour distinguished achievement in history by Australians. They remain the only comprehensive set of history awards to be offered by an Australian state government. The primary focus for these awards is the promotion of excellence in the interpretation of history, through both the written word and non-print media.


Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter has been listing outstanding buildings since 1949. Since 1968 the NSW Chapter has focused on 20th century buildings. With funding from the Heritage Branch of the Department of Planning the Register of 20th century buildings of significance has been further enhanced and should be accessible by clicking on the Heritage register tab.


In 1988 the Heritage Branch and NSW Chapter jointly produced Infill: Guidelines for the Design of Infill Buildings. 16 years later the two organisations recognised the need to update and expand the guideline. They also agreed to collaborate on the publication of two more guidelines to provide advice on the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings and alterations and additions to heritage buildings.


The first of the three publications was published in 2005. Design in Context: Guidelines for Infill Development in the Historic Environment expands on the six principles explained in the earlier document to present 10 case studies exemplifying the best practice application of the principles. They range from a dual occupancy in a suburban historic context to residential infill in a rural context and the master planning of a site of mixed character within a conservation area of unified character.


The second guideline, New Uses for Heritage Places: Guidelines for the Adaptation of Historic Buildings and Sites, was published in 2008. It explains seven principles for achieving successful adaptive reuse projects and illustrates these through 11 detailed case studies, including railway workshops, a hay shed and a historic hospital precinct. Many other examples from across the State are also included.


The third guideline on alterations and additions to heritage buildings is currently being prepared (2009).


The Chapter’s address is 3 Manning St, Potts Point NSW 2011, phone (02) 9246 4055.


An interesting new (2010) web page is the cultural heritage portal of the Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) of NSW. This has been designed as a heritage portal and online exhibition space for the LPMA NSW collection. It currently features a surveying heritage tour of Sydney, an online exhibition of 1810: Expanding Sydney, an online exhibition Land for Sale and other interesting items. Feedback is welcome to