Heritage conservation in Queensland

Queensland’s diverse heritage contributes to our sense of place, reinforces our identity and helps define what it means to be a Queenslander. Our heritage places have been shaped by Queensland’s history, environment, resources and people. They comprise places that we want to keep, respect and pass on to future generations.

Heritage places in Queensland are assessed and managed at four different levels:

The Department of Environment and Science (the department) is responsible for the management and protection of heritage places that fit into the State level described above. Heritage places include buildings, structures, cemeteries, archaeological sites, gardens and parks, urban precincts and natural and landscape features.

Effective heritage conservation does not require that historic places remain frozen in time and are never altered. The best way to protect heritage places is to ensure they continue in active use and are valued by the community.

Protecting Queensland heritage

Heritage in Queensland is protected and conserved using a framework which includes legislation, policies and guidelines.

Queensland legislation

The Queensland Heritage Act 1992 provides for the conservation of Queensland’s cultural heritage for the benefit of the community and future generations. The Act sets out a framework for identifying and protecting heritage places by:

  • Establishing the Queensland Heritage Council
    The Queensland Heritage Council is an independent statutory authority which provides advice to the Queensland Government on strategic and high priority matters relating to Queensland’s heritage. The Queensland Heritage Council decides which places are entered in, or removed from, the Queensland Heritage Register. The Council also provides advice about the development of heritage places owned by the State. The Queensland Heritage Council receives administrative and professional support from the Department of Environment and Science.
  • Keeping the Queensland Heritage Register including a process for assessing applications to the Queensland Heritage Register. The Queensland Heritage Register is a list of Queensland’s significant heritage places. The Department of Environment and Science manages the details about places on the Queensland Heritage Register, but the Queensland Heritage Council makes decisions about which places are entered in or removed from it, and when substantial changes are made to those entry documents.
  • Requiring that archaeological and underwater cultural heritage artefact discoveries be reported
    Archaeological artefact discoveries are protected for 20 business days after they are reported, while historic shipwrecks, aircraft wrecks and the articles associated with them cannot be disturbed without the department’s permission, whether they are reported or not.
  • Providing for the identification and management of local heritage places by local government. Under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992, each local government must keep a local heritage register, or have local heritage planning scheme provisions such as an overlay or schedule. Local heritage registers or planning scheme provisions identify places of local heritage significance. The Guideline: Carrying out a heritage survey (PDF, 153.5 KB) and Guideline: Identifying and assessing places of local cultural heritage significance in Queensland (PDF, 4 MB) outline how to identify places and areas of cultural heritage significance. Some local governments also employ heritage advisors to provide conservation advice to owners of local heritage places. For more information about places that may be in a local heritage register or a planning scheme, contact your local government.
  • Regulating some types of development of heritage places. Development of heritage places is also regulated through the Planning Act 2016. Read more about heritage development involving places on the Queensland Heritage Register.
  • Providing for heritage agreements to help manage Queensland’s heritage places. Read more about heritage agreements.

Queensland Heritage Strategy

The Queensland Heritage Strategy: protecting, investing in and connecting Queensland’s story (PDF, 2MB), defines how Queensland, through the leadership of government and the Queensland Heritage Council, will manage and coordinate heritage issues which are central to community cohesion, ethos and identity, and is built around three key directions:

  1. Leadership: strengthen and streamline heritage protection
  2. Investing in Queensland’s heritage: a collaborative effort
  3. Our state—Our heritage: connecting Queenslanders with their heritage.

Australian legislation

Places of heritage significance to the nation are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) which establishes the National and Commonwealth Heritage lists. The EPBC Act is administered by the Australian Government with advice from the Australian Heritage Council.

The Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 (UCH Act) provides protection for all ship and aircraft wrecks (and associated artefacts) that have been wrecked 75 years or more ago. The department administers certain provisions of the UCH Act on behalf of the Australian Government.

Read more about Australian Government legislation.

The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, 2013

The Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter, 2013 (PDF, 1.97MB) has been adopted by the Queensland Heritage Council as establishing best practice standards for managing Queensland’s heritage places.

The Burra Charter sets out the basic principles and procedures to be observed in the conservation of important heritage places and is used by owners, custodians and managers to guide decisions and work undertaken at heritage places.

The Burra Charter was developed by the Australian chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, Australia ICOMOS, a non-government professional organisation whose mission is to lead cultural heritage conservation in Australia by raising standards, encouraging debate and generating innovative ideas.