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World Heritage

What is World Heritage?

The World Heritage convention is rooted in the belief that certain special places are so important that they form part of humanity’s birth right, and countries are expected to contribute to the protection and conservation of these exceptional properties in order to make them accessible to present and future generations” Cameron C, Rossler, M (2013) Many voices, One Vision: The Early Years of the World Heritage Convention, Farnham: Ashgate.

In 1972 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Better known as the World Heritage Convention, it  is an international treaty that seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

Sites that are nominated for the World Heritage List are inscribed only after they have been carefully assessed as representing the best examples of the world's cultural and natural heritage. Australia has 19 World Heritage sites on the World Heritage List, five of which sit wholly or partly in Queensland.

World Heritage areas include places as unique and diverse as East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America.

One of the most significant features of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together in a single document, the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The Convention also recognises the way in which people interact with nature and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.

There are 191 State Parties to the World Heritage Convention. Australia was one of the first countries to ratify the World Heritage Convention in 1974.

Queensland's World Heritage areas

Queensland has five World Heritage areas:

These properties provide highly valuable environmental, recreation and economic services for Queensland with the vast majority of the properties within national park estate.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is responsible for day-to-day management of the properties through the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has specific responsibilities for World Heritage areas including:

  • statewide coordination of World Heritage matters, policy and strategic planning
  • providing consistent inter-governmental and cross-jurisdictional advice on World Heritage matters
  • providing secretariat support and advice to the World Heritage advisory committees for Fraser Island (K’gari), Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and Australian Fossil Mammal Sites–Riversleigh section. The advisory committees provide advice to the Queensland and Australian Government Ministers responsible for World Heritage, on matters relating to the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the properties Outstanding Universal Value
  • identifying potential new World Heritage areas and coordinating the proposed extensions of Queensland properties on the World Heritage Tentative List

Cape York Peninsula World Heritage project - invitation to be involved

In December 2015 the Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) agreed to explore the possibility of including Cape York on Australia’s World Heritage Tentative List – a list of places that may be nominated for World Heritage listing in future years. An Agreed Statement was developed at the MEM.

The Queensland Government has long recognised the special natural and Indigenous cultural values found on Cape York Peninsula and want to see those values recognised, celebrated and protected internationally. 

The Queensland Government is committed to working towards a World Heritage nomination for suitable areas of Cape York Peninsula on the basis of the consent of relevant Traditional Owner groups and with stakeholder support.

The Queensland Government would like to invite Traditional Owner groups and other key stakeholders who are interested in discussions around a World Heritage nomination process to contact EHP via email: .

For more information on the Cape York Peninsula World Heritage project see Frequently asked questions—Cape York Peninsula World Heritage project.

To receive updates on the Cape York Peninsula World Heritage project register here.

Proposal to extend the Fraser Island World Heritage area - invitation to be involved

The Queensland Government will be seeking the support of the community to progress an extension of the Fraser Island World Heritage area to better recognise the region’s outstanding natural values. The proposed extension includes the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park, the Great Sandy Strait, Wide Bay Military Reserve and Breaksea Spit.

A World Heritage nomination will only be progressed on the basis of the consent of the Traditional Owners of the proposed areas. The Queensland Government will be inviting people whose traditional country is within the consultation boundary to participate in the nomination process. 

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection will begin a consultation process in the near future.

For more information on the proposal to extend the Fraser Island World Heritage area see Frequently asked questions—extension to the Fraser Island World Heritage area.

To receive updates on the proposal to extend the Fraser Island World Heritage area register here.

Management of areas

Australia has an overarching management framework for World Heritage areas that includes:

  • The Australian World Heritage Intergovernmental Agreement - which outlines roles and responsibilities of Australian, State and Territory governments
  • The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - key legislation for protecting World Heritage values
  • Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee - representatives from each Australian World Heritage area share information on best practice management
  • Australian World Heritage Indigenous Network - provide an Indigenous perspective on managing Australia’s World Heritage areas

A range of State laws can also apply such as the Nature Conservation Act 1992, Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 and the Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003.

World Heritage Connect newsletter

The World Heritage Connect newsletter is a national publication that provides a platform to share ideas, experiences and events happening in Australia’s 19 World Heritage listed places.

The newsletter is produced and circulated by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) World Heritage Management unit. It is a way to share knowledge and experiences on projects, innovative partnerships and new technology occurring in the management and protection of Australia’s World Heritage properties.

World Heritage Connect is distributed twice a year by email in Autumn and Spring via email. Subscribe online or by emailing .

World Heritage emblem

The World Heritage emblem identifies the Outstanding Universal Value of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. Designed by Belgian artist Michel Olyff, the emblem was adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 1978 and symbolises the interdependence of cultural and natural properties. The central square of the emblem is a form representing humans and the circle represents nature—the two being intimately linked.

The emblem visually represents a network of over 1000 universally outstanding places in the world, of which Australia has 19 (five of them located wholly or partially in Queensland). The common feature of all properties inscribed on the World Heritage List is that they meet the requirements for Outstanding Universal Value. Outstanding Universal Value is the central idea of the World Heritage Convention. World Heritage properties are recognised internationally as having special significance which needs to be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Related information

Last updated
23 August 2016