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The Australian Heritage Commission, a vain hope? : the role, function and operation of the Australian Heritage Commission 1975-1995


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Wesley, RJ 1997 , 'The Australian Heritage Commission, a vain hope? : the role, function and operation of the Australian Heritage Commission 1975-1995', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Created in 1975, the origins of the Australian Heritage Commission (AHC) lay in two decades of community concern about the perceived degradation of the Australian cultural and natural heritage.

The Australian Heritage Commission has provided advice to the Commonwealth on all major environmental issues during the period under analysis. Despite possessing considerable intellectual resources to carry out its work, the AHC has been the subject of intense criticism both from within and without the government service. Despite the obvious importance of the organisation in a growing area of government policy, there has curiously been little if any independent academic evaluation of its operation and assessment of its performance.

This thesis argues that the AHC has been unable to effectively fulfil the original expectation of the Hope Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate; that is that the timely collection and analysis of environmental and historical data would reduce the level, complexity and number of national environmental disputes. Through the establishment of the AHC, it was also believed the Australian Government could better coordinate a national response to any given conservation issue. While largely succeeding in its primary task of gathering, interpreting and presenting data relevant to the National Estate, these actions alone have not prevented long running and acrimonious land use conflicts.

Entrenched opposition to the AHC as a visible representation of environmentalism in government has caused destabilisation of the organisation and reduced its effectiveness. For much of its life, the AHC has also had insufficient resources to carry out its statutory workload. These circumstances encouraged the Commonwealth to develop new approaches to resolving environmental issues including the formation of the Resource Assessment Commission (RAC).

This thesis outlines the development and impact of a single agency, which has been required to operate in the turbulent and uncharted waters of Australian environmental politics and policy for two decades. It traces the evolution of the AHC as an organisation, adopting a framework using the key recommendations of the Hope Inquiry which led to its establishment. The thesis examines the role of the AHC as an adviser to Cabinet on environmental policy emphasising the importance of scientific research and data collection; and its responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of the National Estate. The relationship between the AHC and other Commonwealth Government bodies providing advice or information to Cabinet forms an important part of the thesis, as does an assessment of the AHC's contribution to the changing face of Commonwealth policy over two turbulent decades.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Wesley, RJ
Keywords: Australian Heritage Commission
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1996 the author

Additional Information:

Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 1997. Includes bibliographical references

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