Canberra: The Heritage Challenges of a Nation's Capital
For the casual visitor to the place often referred to as the ‘Canberra Bubble’, it's difficult at first to understand the city’s unique personality. As Australia's capital, it houses an array of prominent national galleries and museums that cater for tourists and locals alike. Designed by Walter Burley Griffin, this city has grown throughout its 107 year history into a bustling modern metropolis. The city’s cultural heritage is home to a complex mix of political intrigue and social progressiveness, natural heritage and a rich indigenous past. It is important that we recognise and protect the places and objects into the future that define our cultural heritage, and preserve the stories they tell of the past that has helped shaped us as the home of the nation’s capital. The ACT Heritage Council and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate work together under the guidance of the ACT Heritage Act 2004 to recognise, protect, conserve and celebrate these unique heritage places and objects. However, one of the difficulties for Canberran heritage is that it is managed across a number of different federal and territory lists and bodies, with a lot of disparity between what is classed as a sign of national heritage and then that which is considered under the jurisdiction of the ACT government. This tour aims to address the challenges in preserving the heritage status of the ACT by highlighting the elements of the cityscape that necessitate its placement on the National Heritage List.It has been ten years since the first moves were made to place Canberra on the National Heritage list, despite powerful advocates such as Professor Ken Taylor from the Australian National University. The request to list has been repeatedly delayed and postponed as one Federal minister after another has relegated such a proposal to the sidelines. The aim is not prevent future development but to protect the cultural integrity of the capital as a whole. With increasing development applications, a national heritage listing would not only ensure consistency but provide an extra layer of checks and balances on such developments to ensure the preservation of the national capital’s original character as the historic centre of Federation, and the site of landmark decisions and movements for change and a place of ongoing national commemorations.
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