Victorian Goldfields UNESCO World Heritage Bid

Man wearing wide brimmed hat gold panning in creek surrounded by bushland

1. Overview

We've been invited to participate in the Victorian Goldfields UNESCO bid for World Heritage Listing.

In August 2023 Council endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding between Indigo Shire Council and the Victorian Goldfields World Heritage Listing Bid stakeholders and committed to participate in the UNESCO bid process. 

This is a significant opportunity for Indigo Shire and its communities.  Our heritage assets, built, landscapes and histories that meet the high threshold for World Heritage would be recognised on the world stage and preservation and interpretation opportunities, including funding, are associated with this status.

2. Background

The group behind the Bid for World Heritage listing has previously been a partnership of 13 Local Governments in and around the Central Victorian Goldfields. Following advice from World Heritage Listing specialists, and in conjunction with the Victorian Government, the bid team and stakeholders proposed inclusion of Indigo Shire and one other regional LGA into an expanded bid for the Victorian Goldfields. In 2023 the Victorian State Government announced a State Budget allocation of $3.8M to progress world heritage projects including the Victorian Goldfields.

The Bid seeks to leverage the World Heritage inscription to showcase the story of the Victorian Goldfields, from its Indigenous cultural history to its significant natural and built landscape offerings, putting Victoria and Victorian Goldfields on the global stage as a cultural visitor destination. World Heritage listing of Australia’s Victorian Goldfields aims to share the extraordinary story of the Victorian Goldfields with people from across the globe and will create social, cultural and economic opportunities for every community and person across the Victorian Goldfields’ region.

In parallel with the Bid process, the Beechworth Historic Precinct has a National Heritage Listing nomination under consideration.

3. Cost

Indigo Shire will contribute a small stakeholder payment to the Bid team of $4,000 in line with all the other stakeholder Councils. Additionally we will contributre $7,500 to the revision of the ‘Victorian Goldfields Sustainable Tourism Masterplan’ for the inclusion of Indigo Shire. There are no further contributions required at this time.

Council staff resources will support the Bid process, and future opportunities where specific investment would optimise the outcomes for Indigo Shire would be considered through the normal Council Budget process when or if opportunity arises.

4. Opportunity and Value

The aim of the Bid is to recognise the Victorian Goldfields’ outstanding global heritage significance; if successful it will become a catalyst for transformative regional regeneration. It will bring investment and job opportunities, and build sustainable economies and communities.

The Central Victorian Goldfields UNESCO World Heritage Benefits Analysis, Summary Report October 2022, estimates that in the first ten years after listing, the central goldfields (without the expanded Victorian Goldfields footprint), will attract an additional 2.2 million new visitors and spending $440M above pre-pandemic 2019 levels. This growth has the potential to drive investment in new accommodation, visitor facilities and services.

The analysis shows that total investment in accommodation alone, to meet visitor demand across the region, would be in the order of $570M over 10 years. In the first ten years after listing, the projected growth in visitors will lead to an increase of around 1,750 jobs in the major tourist areas and smaller centres across the region and total regional income is estimated to be $150M higher.

The listing celebrates and protects the richness of the region’s multi-layered history – from the First Peoples living on Country to the gold rush and subsequent waves of immigration. At the same time, initiatives also uplift today’s communities and align with their aspirations for the future.

Benefits include:

• Community identity and pride
• Conservation of heritage
• Socioeconomic revitalisation
• Celebrate culture

5. Sustainability

The Victorian Goldfields Sustainable Tourism Masterplan Principles includes:

Promote environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability. Support sustainable outcomes using a quadruple bottom line model of sustainability that includes the environmental, social, economic and cultural dimensions of sustainability.

Additionally, our 2025-2030 tourism strategy is under development during 2024 and its principle focus is on sustainable tourism, net zero destinations, eco-accreditation for tourism businesses and carbon neutral travel.

The Victorian Goldfields Sustainable Tourism Masterplan (under development) embraces the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

• SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
• SDG9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
• SDG10 – Reduced inequalities
• SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
• SDG 13 – Climate action
• SDG 15 – Life on Land

6. First Nations

The Victorian Goldfields Sustainable Tourism Master Plan aligns with the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples to enable the right to self-determination of First Nations peoples. It also aligns with Pillar 2 of Revive, Australia’s Cultural Policy - reflecting the breadth of our stories and the contribution of all Australians as the creators of culture.

Indigo Shire's Traditional Custodian groups have been informed of the invitation to participate in the Victorian Goldfields Bid process. An invitation to meet and discuss the context and background of the Bid and potential opportunities arising from it, has been included in initial correspondence.

It is important to emphasise that First Nations’ participation is determined by First Nations communities and the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent are fundamental.

A critical consideration is that First Nations’ values and associations with Country are recognised, interpreted and communicated in ways that are culturally correct and safe, as determined by First Nations communities. World Heritage listing may facilitate truth-telling to a global audience.

The Victorian Goldfields include many places of significance to First Nations communities. These are protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act. Places of significance to First Nations communities reflect their past and continuing associations with Country, evidenced in places, stories and landscapes. Traditional Custodians share the story of the Victorian Goldfields landscape and are represented by at least seven Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs); and across Indigo Shire, further Traditional Custodian groups.

Through engagement, these communities may choose to share their knowledge and have their values and places recognised in the developing narrative of the World Heritage Bid. World Heritage recognition is increasingly placing emphasis on the history, heritage, and stories of Traditional Custodians. In respect to the Victorian Goldfield this relates to pre–European settlement and displacement of traditional lands, the pastoral expansion, the gold era – the creation of ‘upside down country’ (Country turned on its head by gold diggings), the building of cities and towns, agricultural development and the increasing involvement and responsibility of Traditional Custodians for Country.

7. Serial Listings / Sites

The Victorian Goldfields Bid models the best practice serial listing approach. Each distinct and highly significant site selected, forms a series of sites across the Victorian Goldfields bringing greater social and regional development benefits to the entire region.

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. It is likely only 8-10 sites will be successfully included in the Victorian Goldfields serial listing Bid. There is no potential for, or consideration of, the Bid encompassing the entire Goldfields region or entire towns.

8. Preservation and conservation 

Most sites included in the Bid (possibly all) will be publicly owned and already protected on lists like the Victorian Heritage Register & Inventory, and/or in local planning schemes and in some cases will be on the National Heritage List.

Heritage controls remain under Local, State and Federal jurisdiction. UNESCO does not impose planning controls. Indigo’s Planning Scheme and current State Heritage listed buildings and sites are understood to provide the necessary controls to meet inclusion requirements for a World Heritage Listing Bid.

Beechworth’s Historic Precinct is on the Victorian Heritage register (‘State Listed’) and is currently under consideration for National Listing. Many other publicly and privately owned sites are also on the State Register & Inventory.

World Heritage Listing of one or more significant sites in Indigo aligns with Council plan objectives to celebrate and maximise the experiences at key historic buildings and precincts. UNESCO listed sites/landscapes bring opportunity to reach new audiences and support the conservation and interpretation of key sites.