Identifying Australia's Most Inspiring Landscapes

What makes a particular landscape inspirational? What are Australia’s most inspirational natural landscapes? Which of these landscapes are sufficiently outstanding to be nominated to Australia's new National Heritage List?

The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) is seeking to identify a selection of inspirational landscapes for nominating to the National Heritage List. To start this process, we are asking you to think about the landscapes that inspire you, and which of these could be considered as some of Australia’s most outstanding places.

Considerable background work on ‘inspirational landscapes’ was undertaken for DEH in 2002 and 2003. A framework was developed to help define 'what is an inspirational landscape' and to apply heritage criteria to determine when an inspirational landscape is of national heritage significance. Once we have assembled a list of outstanding inspirational landscapes across Australia as identified by heritage and landscape professionals and members of the wider community, we will apply this framework and recommend some places for inclusion on the National Heritage List.

What is an inspirational landscape?

Many studies have been undertaken to assess perceptions of landscapes and their aesthetic or scenic values. The outcomes show that many people give priority to places with a high degree of naturalness, particularly rugged landforms, rocky outcrops, diverse vegetation and water features. Yet some people find greater inspiration in deserts or grasslands and landscapes with cultural features—often because they have spent time there and developed a strong emotional involvement going well beyond a simple visual response.

So landscapes may be ‘scenic’ or ‘beautiful’ but inspirational landscapes also evoke an additional depth of feeling—an emotional response which helps connect people to the place and inspire them. This response may be an awe inspiring reaction, creative inspiration, reflection or action to protect the place.

How can you be involved? Think about your response to situations where you have spent time in a special setting— watching the sun rise from a mountain top, relaxing on a pristine beach, hiking through an alpine meadow, rafting down an unspoilt river valley or swimming in a sandy pool by a waterfall.

We would like you to reflect on your experiences (or the collective experiences of people in your organisation), identify landscapes you see as strongly inspirational, and provide your comments.

At this stage the focus is on predominantly natural landscapes (although these can have strong cultural associations, particularly Indigenous). Cultural landscapes such as rural or urban landscapes or those modified by other historic processes will be considered later.

How will inspirational landscapes be assessed? We all see landscapes through different eyes - everyone brings their own mental ‘baggage’ derived from individual life experiences. So it’s harder to determine the significance of inspirational landscape values than, say, geological features or flora or fauna species. We will collate your responses and combine them with other information gathered in the project.

This will include a review of heritage registers, published sources such as environmental reports, tourism and park information, and art, poetry, music and films that have been inspired by landscapes. We will go through an evaluation process to determine a short list of places of potential outstanding significance. These will then be further assessed according to heritage criteria, and ultimately the Minister for the Environment and Heritage will make a final decision as to their inclusion on the National Heritage List.

We expect that the outcomes of this project will be documented and publicised on the DEH website early next year. We will also identify ways of promoting the importance of Australia’s inspirational landscapes and increasing community appreciation of their values.

Who is undertaking the project?

The project is being undertaken by Robin Crocker and Associates, Planisphere Urban Strategy Planners and Dr David Young, working closely with staff in DEH.

See our submission "Inspirational Landscape Nomination"

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