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Celebrating 40 Years of World Heritage

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Keeping the Outstanding Exceptional: the Future of World Heritage in Australia

The Australian Committee of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ACIUCN) is proud to make available its latest book ‘Keeping the Outstanding Exceptional - the Future of World Heritage in Australia’ which was recently launched in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area during the National Landscapes Conference.

The book is based on a Symposium held last August in Cairns by ACIUCN in partnership with the Wet Tropics Management Authority and supported by the Australian Conservation Foundation. Over 100 experts from government, non-government academia and Indigenous sectors attended and both the Federal Minister and State Minister addressed the conference. It was Australia’s major acknowledgement of the 40th Anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention – a Convention which has played a significant role in the history of environmental issues in Australia.

To become a World Heritage site is like winning the Nobel Prize - it means an area has been judged by international experts to be the best of the best. This is summed up in a statement of “Outstanding Universal Value” for each site accepted by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. With this high recognition comes an equally high obligation to apply the highest standards of protection, as we put it – “to keep the outstanding exceptional.”

This was the purpose of our symposium – to assess how we measured up against this very high goal and to look for ways in which we could better fulfil the profound commitment embodied in the words ‘World Heritage’ to protect and present these wonderful places to current and future generations.

The Symposium was driven by the realisation that despite Australia having generally very high standards of management, Australian sites like all World Heritage Areas face challenges, some constituting serious threats to the Outstanding Universal Value of sites. There was also concern that public understanding and overall commitment to World Heritage may have slipped.

The need for deep thinking and planning for World Heritage has been given sharp focus by the well - publicised threats to the future of the Great Barrier Reef posed by agricultural run-off and ports and shipping related to large scale industrial development. The strategic responses to these concerns by both state and Commonwealth governments gave the Symposium high relevance and the detailed discussions could hold lessons well beyond Australia.

The book includes the ‘Cairns Communique’ which is a statement by the symposium which outlines key steps to improve management of these iconic parts of Australia for all time. Please disseminate freely to interested parties and decision makers.

The publication of the book was supported by a grant from the Department of Sustainability, Environment Water Population and Communities. It can be downloaded in its entirety or by chapter below. Some additional hard copies may be available – with IUCN Members and ACIUCN Affiliates being given preference.


Or download by chapter below


Snapshot report on trends, issues and achievements in Australian World Heritage management

As part of the World Heritage symposium, ACIUCN in collaboration with the Macquarie University Graduate School of the Environment, commissioned a snapshot report to highlight trends, issues, and achievements in Australian World Heritage Area management. Designed around five thematic areas the World Heritage Convention - governance, resources, capacity building, community engagement, and key opportunities and threats - the report provides a voice for on ground managers, and represents the culmination of responses provided by managers for fourteen of the sixteen Australian World Heritage areas listed for their outstanding ‘natural’ and ‘mixed’ (natural/cultural) values.


Download Keeping the Outstanding Exceptional: the Future of World Heritage in Australia by chapter


Foreword by Hon. Tony Burke MP, Minister for Sustainability Environment, Water, Population and Communities

World Heritage Leadership

Chapter 1: Australia’s World Heritage - Keeping the Outstanding Exceptional – Hon. Tony Burke MP

Chapter 2: Queensland’s Commitment to the World Heritage Convention - Hon. Andrew Powell MP, Minister for Environment and Heritage, Queensland

Chapter 3: Indigenous people and World Heritage: the Benefits, Opportunities and Challenges - Chrissy Grant

Chapter 4: Celebrating the role of World Heritage in Australia’s environmental and cultural history - Don Henry and Denise Boyd

Chapter 5: Australia’s achievements and legacy on the World Heritage Committee - Paul Murphy

Chapter 6: <Setting Best Practice Standards for World Heritage Management - Prof. Richard Mackay AM

Chapter 7: International and Regional Perspective on the State of World Heritage - Kristal Buckley AM

International Perspectives on the Convention

Chapter 8: Strategic Issues for World Heritage: some IUCN and personal perspectives - Peter Shadie

Maintaining the Outstanding Universal Value of Australia’s World Heritage Areas: The Manager’s Perspective

Chapter 9: Managing World Heritage in Australia: trends, issues and achievements - Hala Razian and Katherine Zischka

Chapter 10: Managing Australia’s World Heritage in Kakadu National Park and Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park - Peter Cochrane

Chapter 11: Protecting Icy Islands – The Territory of Heard and McDonald Islands World Heritage Area - Tony Fleming and Sandra Potter

Chapter 12: Managing the Outstanding Universal Value of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area - Andrew Maclean

Chapter 13: Managing Fraser Island World Heritage Area - Angie Stringer

Chapter 14: Chapter 15: Managing Australia’s World Heritage in the Greater Blue Mountains - Jacqueline Reid

Chapter 16: Managing Australia’s World Heritage in the Willandra Lakes Region - Richard Mintern

Chapter 17: Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area – remnants of our primeval past - Tricia Waters

Chapter 18: The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites - Naracoorte and Riversleigh - Deborah Craven-Carden and Angie Stringer

Keeping the Outstanding Exceptional: Key Questions and Expert Responses

Chapter 19: Operationalising the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area: addressing some challenges raised by the World Heritage Committee - Jon Day

Chapter 20: Managing Australia’s World Heritage: A Summary of Key Questions and Expert Reponses - Penelope Figgis AO

Chapter 21: Engaging Indigenous Communities in World Heritage declarations: processes and practice - Leah Talbot

Chapter 22: Bringing the community into World Heritage through biocultural diversity: issues and policy implications - Dr. Rosemary Hill

Chapter 23: Engaging the community as volunteers for Management – the Case of Lord Howe Island World Heritage Area - Stephen Wills

World Heritage and the Community

Chapter 24: World Heritage Areas in the life of communities: An analysis from the Wet Tropics of Queensland - Dr. Lea Scherl

Chapter 25: The Role and Importance of the Australian World Heritage Indigenous Network (AWHIN) in achieving Best Practice Management of World Heritage in Australia - Allison Halliday, Hank Horton and Alastair Birtles

Chapter 26: Community Involvement in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area - Peter Mooney

Chapter 27: Community Engagement and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area - Karen Vohland

Communicating and presenting World Heritage

Chapter 28: Valuing our iconic heritage areas: how the industry can support keeping the outstanding exceptional - Daniel Gschwind

Chapter 29: Australia’s National Landscapes Program – Promoting our World Heritage Icons - Hilary Schofield

Chapter 30: Fraser Island: a personal view of ‘presenting’ World Heritage - John Sinclair

Chapter 31: Communicating the World Heritage brand: Building appreciation and commitment to the concept - Lisa King

The Future of Australia’s World Heritage

Chapter 32: Australia’s World Heritage Nominations – What are our missing icons and what can be done to resume progress? - Dr. Geoff Mosley AM

Chapter 33: Voice of the Future: What does World Heritage mean to a young Australian? - Jessey Reid

Chapter 34: The Future of World Heritage in Australia - Assoc. Prof. Peter Valentine

The Cairns Communique

A statement of key principles for the future management of Australia’s World Heritage


The Science Informing Policy Symposium Series

Find out more about ACIUCN's flagship event series the Science Informing Policy Symposium Series. Bringing together leading Australian and international environmental experts from across governments, NGOs and academia to advise on best practice environmental policy and decision making.

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