"Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass onto future generations" - UNESCO
The heritage of the Great Barrier Reef shapes and drives what the reef is like now, how it is managed and the type of reef tomorrow's generation will inherit.
Heritage includes places, values, traditions, events and experiences.
By protecting and managing the heritage of the Great Barrier Reef we are conserving a valuable asset and ensuring it will continue to be experienced and enjoyed by future generations.
The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
The Great Barrier Reef received World Heritage status in 1981, the first coral reef ecosystem in the world to have this distinction.
It is one of the better known coral reef ecosystems in the world and remains one of the world's best managed natural wonders.
Significance to Traditional Owners
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef region.
There are more than 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner clan groups that maintain heritage values for their land and sea country.
These values may be cultural, spiritual, economic, social or physical, and demonstrate continuing connections with the Great Barrier Reef and its natural resources.
Their traditional cultural practices and knowledge of marine resource use is under increasing pressure from the activities of modern day society in both remote and urban areas.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner groups to develop and maintain Sea Country Partnerships.
Australia's national heritage comprises natural and cultural places that contribute to its national identity.
In May 2007, existing Australian World Heritage properties (such as the Great Barrier Reef) were transferred on to the National Heritage List for their World Heritage values.
Also five Commonwealth Heritage places within the Great Barrier Reef Region and many places of historical significance including lighthouses and shipwrecks are managed to protect heritage values.
The Great Barrier Reef Heritage Strategy
The Heritage Strategy outlines actions to identify, assess and monitor the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park's heritage values, to develop a heritage register and propose heritage management plans.
Historic heritage includes places associated with the non-Indigenous cultural heritage of Australia encompassed in the country's history.
Historic places tell us about national and social developments in Australia over the past few centuries, technical and creative achievements, and provide a tangible link to past events, processes and people.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1981 when it was accepted by the World Heritage Committee as being of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’.
For an area to be internationally recognised as being of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), it must meet one or more of ten criteria listed in the Operational Guidelines for the World Heritage Convention.
Four of these World Heritage criteria are considered to be ‘natural’ criteria (the other six are cultural criteria); the Great Barrier Reef was the first marine site to be listed for all four natural criteria, which in 1981 were summarised as:
- major stages of earth's evolutionary history
- superlative natural phenomena or exceptional natural beauty
- significant ongoing geological processes, biological evolution and man's interaction with his natural environment
- habitats where populations of rare or endangered species still survive.
In 1981 the concept of having a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SoOUV) for each World Heritage property had not been widely accepted.
Today every World Heritage property is required to have a SoOUV. Once the SoOUV has been adopted by the World Heritage Committee, it becomes the official statement for that property.
The SoOUV is regarded by UNESCO as the "basis for the future protection and management of the property" and is the benchmark against which the state of conservation of the property is periodically assessed.
A retrospective SoOUV for the Great Barrier Reef was prepared by GBRMPA officers in 2011 in consultation with the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Population and Communities (SEWPAC) and International Union for Conservation of Nature, and was formally adopted by the World Heritage Committee in July 2012. In accordance with the UNESCO requirements, the SoOUV documents the OUV, including the conditions of integrity of the property, at the time of inscription (i.e.1981) rather than the date the SoOUV was prepared or adopted.
The Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the Great Barrier Reef is now available on the SEWPAC website.