Convict sites get World Heritage listing

Port Arthur, Freemantle Prison and Cockatoo Island are among 11 former convict sites inscribed this week.
By AAP with AG Staff August 3, 2010 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

SOME OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST important convict sites have been added to the United Nations World Heritage List, where they join natural icons such as the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru -Kata Tjuta.

The global list of World Heritage sites – which brings an endorsement that can boost tourism and environmental protection for those on it – has swelled with 21 additions decided at a UNESCO meeting in recent days.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which wraps up its deliberations in Brazil on Tuesday after 10 days of work, awarded its seal to a few already well-visited attractions, such as Amsterdam’s canal belt and France’s historic town of Albi.

Colonial heritage

But most of the sites – for instance the Bikini Atoll where US atomic bomb tests confirmed our nuclear era, or Sri Lanka’s highlands – were further off the beaten path.

Peter Garrett, Australia’s Environment Protection and Heritage Minister welcomed the committee’s decision to inscribe 11 local convict sites on the list. These include: Old Government House, the Domain, Hyde Park Barracks, Cockatoo Island and Old Great North Road in NSW, Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, and Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island. Tasmania’s Port Arthur, Brickendon and Woolmers Estates, Darlington Probation Station, Coal Mines Historic Site and the Cascades Female Factory are also on the list.

However, Aboriginal activists condemned the inclusion of convict-era monuments, saying no more “white Australian” sites should be added while the country’s indigenous heritage is in decline.

Off the beaten path

The minister also announced that the federal government would transfer eastern Sydney’s Malabar Headland to the NSW state government for conservation. About 70 hectares of additional national park and conservation reserve will be created as a result of the decision.

Further additions to the list globally are a colonial palace in Vietnam, temples and rugged red terrain in China, an historic bazaar in Iran, archipelagos off Hawaii and in the South Pacific, national park in France’s Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and in Tanzania, 14th-century villages in South Korea and an 18th-century astronomical observatory in India were all inscribed.

Three countries – Tajikistan, the Marshall Islands and the South Pacific nation of Kiribati – earned their first World Heritage tags. The full list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be found at: whc.unesco.org/en/list