Part 3.3: European Cultural Heritage Themes, Sub-themes and Potential Forested Places

The Panel confirmed the view, expressed at its March 1997 meeting, that in relation to identifying Australian thematic contexts and themes of outstanding universal value for the historic environment, a difficulty is that there has been far less consideration given to the overall pattern of Australian history since 1788, in the World Heritage context, relative to the natural environment. Although it has been able to make some suggestions about thematic contexts and themes in relation to its terms of reference, the Panel emphasised that these should not be regarded as definitive, and further work in a broader context may suggest other themes, or additional sub-themes, related to those already identified.

The Panel also noted that future work will be required to clarify and expand on the sub-theme of "Integration of an economic system and the resources of a continent into the global economy", including a consideration of types of places, or other sub-themes, that might be relevant in addition to those identified. Gold-mining is one of the most obvious areas representing this sub-theme. Others may be significant in the World Heritage context, but for different reasons. Examples might include pastoralism and base-metal mining. Further research would need to be undertaken before other places or sub-themes could be given further consideration in a forest context.

Theme: European expansion of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

Sub-theme: Forced migration - a major way in which the expansion took place

Convict transportation to Australia is an outstanding example of how European powers initiated the colonisation of an entire continent.

Forced migration has been a major factor in the global movement of people from their home countries to newly-settled areas since ancient times. Convictism is one aspect of forced migration; other aspects include slavery, exile and, in some cases, indentured labour. Slavery, which involved the movement of more than ten million people from Africa to the Americas between 1492 and 1888 is regarded as the most devastating of all forced movements of humans. The theme of slavery is represented by a number of places inscribed in the World Heritage List.

Transportation of convicts has also been a major aspect of the labour force and colonisation processes associated with European expansion. During the sixteenth century, Spain commenced the use of convicts as labour in its galleys in the Mediterranean region, and in outposts and colonies in North Africa and America. In the eighteenth century, Russia, France and Britain began to employ convict labour for overseas works and colonial development. Convict transportation has resulted in the enforced migration of large numbers of people. For example, an estimated two million people were transported to Siberia, up to one hundred and fifty thousand people to the Americas and the Atlantic colonies, seventy-five thousand to southern Asia and the Pacific region, six thousand to Africa, and an estimated one hundred and sixty-two thousand were transported to Australia.

A recent report to the World Heritage Unit of the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories by Pearson and Marshall, entitled Study of World Heritage Values: Convict Places, May 1996, identified a number of common themes associated with forced migration. The themes most relevant to Australia included the following uses of convictism: as a mechanism of control of law and order in the home countries and the colonies, as a strategic tool in the extension of colonialism, and in the building and maintenance of spheres of political influence.

The Australian experience of convictism associated with forced migration has been identified as a theme of outstanding universal value in other contexts, including in the work undertaken by the Panel. Other work has been undertaken to identify places that are likely to represent a best global expression of the theme. As a result, a draft serial nomination is currently being developed which recommends eight convict places for consideration by the Commonwealth and the States as collectively meeting the criteria for inclusion on the World Heritage List.

The Panel noted the other work currently being undertaken in relation to the sub-theme of forced migration. It considered that of the eight identified convict places, three, including two places in New South Wales and one place in Western Australia, warrant consideration in the context of its current forest-related work. These three places were discussed by the Panel, as outlined below.

Western Australia

Western Australia was a convict penal establishment during the period from 1850 to 1868. It therefore represents a last expression of convict transportation in Australia.

Fremantle Prison, near Perth, has been identified as one of the eight sites of major importance in relation to the convict theme. The prison is based on the Pentonville model and was used to house convicts between 1852 and 1868. Although the site was regarded as a potential important component of a series of sites that provide a best global representation of the sub-theme, Fremantle Prison is not within a forested area.

The Panel also noted that convict labour was utilised in a variety of public works in Western Australia, including in road construction. A number of roads constructed with convict labour traverse forested areas. No sites were regarded as warranting further consideration for possible contributions to a best global expression of the sub-theme.

New South Wales

New South Wales was the first convict settlement in Australia. Between 1788 and 1868, convicts were transported to Australia from Britain, Ireland and some of the British Crown Colonies. Half of these convicts were transported to New South Wales.

Two major convict sites have been identified in New South Wales as warranting further investigation for their contribution to a series of sites representing a best global expression of the sub-theme. These included the Great North Road, and Hyde Park Barracks.

The Great North Road is in Dharug National Park, north of Sydney, and comprises a convict-built road and associated structures, including convict road gang stockades. The site includes Wiseman's Ferry Stockade and Devine's Hill. The road and associated structures represent a significant component of extensions to the road system to aid colonial expansion activities. The structures at the site also provide an outstanding example of a major engineering work based on convict labour in Australia. Different levels of skill of the convict gangs can be discerned in different parts of the site. The Great North Road is in a forested area. The Panel recommended that the Great North Road warrants further investigation for its serial contribution as an expression of the sub-theme.

The Hyde Park Barracks comprises a convict barracks located in the city of Sydney. Based on a Greenway design and completed in 1818, the Barracks was used to remove convicts from the general community at night. The Panel recognised the outstanding significance of the Barracks, but the place is not within a forested area and therefore was not considered further in relation to the sub-theme.


Queensland was used as a convict establishment and includes sites of convict settlement; for example, at Moreton Bay. In the Panel's view, there are no convict places in Queensland that warrant further assessment as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme.

External Territories

In addition to the above-mentioned places, the Panel's discussion encompassed the penal establishment at Kingston, Norfolk Island, which is one of Australia's External Territories. This site was seen as of major significance in contributing to a series of places that best represent the sub-theme. Use of the Kingston site took place over two periods, from 1788 to 1814, and from 1825 to 1855. The site includes a number of buildings surviving from the second period of use. These include the Military Barracks, Commissariat Store, Government House, cottages, the crank mill, pier store, boat houses, the convict gaol and barracks wall.

The Panel noted that the Kingston site was outside those sites to be considered as part of the forest assessment process, but that it would warrant further investigation in any broader assessment of this sub-theme. It did not consider the site further.

Table 13 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Forced migration - a major way in which the expansion took place"



Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Forced migration

- a major way in which the expansion took place

Best global expression based on a series of areas:

Great North Road and associated road gang sites in Dharug National Park, NSW.

(including Wiseman's Ferry Historic site).

Convict-built roadworks used to extend the road system and aid colonial expansion.

Fremantle Prison, Perth, WA.

Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney, NSW.

Kingston Penal Establishment, Norfolk Island.

Non-forest area

Non-forest area

Non-forest area

Sub-theme: Integration of an economic system and the resources of a continent into the global economy

The Australian goldrushes are an outstanding example of the global migrations associated with the nineteenth century goldrushes.

The Australian goldrushes were amongst the most significant of the series of rushes which occurred around the periphery of the Pacific from the mid-nineteenth century. Beginning in California in the late 1840s, the rushes swept through eastern Australia in the 1850s, New Zealand in the 1860s, the Klondike in the 1880s and Alaska in the 1890s. The Indian Ocean periphery was also impacted by the goldrushes, with the South African finds in 1885, and the Western Australian rush commencing in 1892. In 1903, Australia was the largest single producer of gold in the world.

The population in Australia underwent a dramatic increase following the first goldrush in 1851. For example, the overall non-Aboriginal population of all Australian colonies increased from 438,000 at the time of the first gold rush to

3, 774,000 at the time of Federation in 1901. The goldrushes were an important stimulus for this growth, with immigration accounting for a major proportion of the population increase. During the peak years of discovery in the early 1850s, the Australian gold fields became the single most important destination of emigrants from Britain. By 1861, after the first decade of the goldrush, only 37% of the population was Australian-born.

Although the 1850s included the peak of the goldrush, the process of discovery and exploitation of gold continued to influence the character of Australian society and settlement throughout the country. The first discoveries, near Ophir and Turon in New South Wales, were quickly overtaken by rich finds in central Victoria. The sequence of subsequent discoveries followed a general anti-clockwise pattern, continuing through Queensland in the 1860s, the Northern Territory in the 1880s and Western Australia in the 1890s. The dramatic population movements generated by these rushes had a lasting influence, with the creation of "instant" cities and towns and the formation of a distinctive democratic culture.

The Panel noted that a comprehensive assessment of the expression of the sub-theme of goldrushes in Australia has yet to be undertaken. It expressed the view that, in all probability, a series of places would be required to provide an adequate and representative expression of the goldrush sub-theme. It also noted that there are some places; for example, the central goldfields of Victoria, that are outstanding in their contribution to the sub-theme.

The Panel considered that it would be necessary for the following aspects of the goldrushes in Australia to be included in any best global expression of the sub-theme: the first, major goldrushes, the distinctive rushes associated with each colony, subsequent rushes that contributed in a major way to the patterns of settlement of the continent, and rushes that played a major role in establishing Australia's place in the world economy. The Panel noted that some goldrush sites might represent several of these different aspects.

The Panel also commented on particular physical features and remains that, in its view, would be important in contributing to the heritage values of goldrush sites. These included: standing buildings and settlements, such as miner's huts and villages; mine workings, such as alluvial fields, open cuts, batteries; and infrastructure, such as dams, races, pipelines. Places discussed by the Panel in relation to this theme included those with substantial known physical remains. The Panel also commented that a number of other sites exist which are less well documented in terms of their extent, or extant features.

Goldrush sites discussed by the Panel are summarised below.

Western Australia

There are no major goldmining sites within forested areas of Western Australia. The major goldrush sites in the state include the Coolgardie, and East Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie fields. The Panel noted the likely significance of these sites as expressions of the sub-theme, but indicated that they are all outside forested areas.

The Panel also discussed the significance of infrastructure associated with the Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie goldfields, particularly the Perth to Kalgoorlie water pipeline. The pipeline was constructed between 1898 and 1903 and extended for 520 kilometres. It included eight steam pumping stations along its route to maintain water flow. The Panel noted that the pipeline was an essential component of the goldfields, and that without it the large fields could not have been developed in such an arid area. Part of the pipeline, and the water supply catchment at Mundaring reservoir, are within a forested area. The Panel decided that the Coolgardie-Kalgoolie water pipeline infrastructure may warrant further investigation in relation to the sub-theme. The Panel also considered that the pipeline infrastructure was an integral part of the Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie goldfields, and therefore its significance could only be assessed in the context of an evaluation of the Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie goldfields, which are outside forested areas.

New South Wales

The Australian goldrushes started in New South Wales, with the discovery of payable gold at Ophir, near Orange, leading to the first rush in 1851. As well as being the site of the first goldrush, the field at Ophir constitutes a major site with gold mining continuing at the place almost without break to the present time. The Panel considered that the Ophir field warrants further investigation for its contribution to the sub-theme, especially in relation to its expression as the first goldrush site.

The rush to the Turon River, north of Ophir, followed a few months later. An extension of the Turon field onto the adjacent tablelands at Tambaroora followed, and this led to the goldrush at Hill End in the 1870s. All of these goldrush sites are in forested areas and include substantial physical remnants of the rushes. The Panel considered that Turon and Tambarooroa sites, incorporating Sofala, represent an extension of the first rush and warrant further investigation for their contribution to a serial expression of the sub-theme. The Hill End goldfield also warrants further investigation in representing the resurgence of mining on old rush fields later in the century.

Other goldfields in New South Wales discussed by the Panel included sites of secondary rushes at Kiandra and Araluen, and sites of smaller rushes at Rockley, Batlow and Adelong, Rocky River at Uralla, Tumbarumba, Gundagai, Upper Clarence River near Drake, Lambing Flat at Young, Forbes, Shoalhaven and Mongarlowe, and Tibooburra and Milparinka. The latter site is outside forested areas. The other sites were not identified by the Panel as likely to be of global significance in their contribution to a serial representation of the sub-theme. The Panel noted that many of these sites have yet to be fully documented, and some may be of possible greater significance in their expression of the sub-theme.


Gold was first discovered in Queensland at Canoona, near Rockhampton, in 1858 and led to a short-lived rush. Numerous other rushes occurred during the nineteenth century, including at Palmer River, Mount Morgan, Charters Towers, Clermont, Hodgkinson, Croydon, Ravenswood, Georgetown and Gympie, but many of these involved only relatively small fields. Eighty percent of the total Queensland gold production came from only four fields, Mount Morgan, Charters Towers, Gympie and the Palmer River Goldfield.

The most significant goldfields in terms of their likely contribution to representing the sub-theme were identified as Charters Towers, Mount Morgan and the Palmer River Goldfield. It was considered that the heritage values of the Mount Morgan fields, which are west of Rockhampton, may have been compromised by subsequent mining operations, and the Panel indicated that further investigation would be necessary to confirm this. The Panel considered that Charters Towers, the Palmer River Goldfield and the fields at Mount Morgan are of likely international significance for their possible contribution to a series of sites providing a best global expression of the sub-theme. These sites are within non-forest or woodland areas and therefore were not considered further.

The Panel also noted that the goldfields at Clermont, Hodgkinson Goldfield and Croydon are outside forested areas. In addition, it considered that the fields at Ravenswood, Georgetown and Gympie were not likely to be amongst the best global expressions of the sub-theme.

Table 14 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Integration of an economic system and the resources of a continent into the global economy".



Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation


Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Integration of an economic system and the resources of a continent into the global economy

Best global expression based on a series of areas:

Perth-Kalgoorlie water pipeline WA.

(only as part of Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie goldfields)

Ophir Goldfield, NSW.

Turon and Tambaroora goldfields (including Sofala), NSW.

Hill End, NSW.

Essential infrastructure for Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie goldfields.

First goldrush site with substantial mining remains.

Extension of the first rush, with features influencing subsequent rushes

Mining town demonstrating resurgence of mining on old rush fields.

Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie goldfields WA.

Kiandra, NSW.

Araluen, NSW.

Rockley, NSW.

Batlow and Adelong, NSW.

Uralla, NSW.

Tumbarumba, NSW.

Gundagai, NSW.

Upper Clarence River, NSW.

Young, NSW.

Forbes, NSW.

Shoalhaven and

Mongarlowe, NSW.

Tibooburra and Milparinka, NSW.

Ravenswood, Qld.

Georgetown, Qld.

Gympie, Qld.

Charters Towers, Qld.

Palmer River Goldfield, Qld.

Mount Morgan, Qld.

Clermont, Qld.

Hodgkinson Goldfield, Qld.

Croydon, Qld.

Non-forest area

Not globally significant

Non-forest area

Not globally significant

Non-forest areas

Sub-theme: Land barriers as historical frontiers

European expansion into the New World was a process of imaginative, as well as economic, appropriation in which explorers, poets, artists and photographers played a part. The first frontier, or land barrier, assumed special importance as the site of this encounter.

As outlined in Section 1.4, the Expert Panel agreed that the sub-theme of "Land barriers as historical frontiers" should be added to the list of sub-themes identified at its 1996 meeting as an additional expression of the theme of "European expansion of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Panel's discussion of this sub-theme is summarised below.

Outstanding examples of land barriers as historical frontiers are found in a number of places in the world. In the United States, the Hudson Valley and the Appalachians were such frontiers, in Canada, the Rockies, in South Africa, the Drakensburgs, and in Australia, the Blue Mountains.

The Blue Mountains were arguably the most significant of these land barriers. Although lower than the Rockies or the Drakensburgs, they presented a more imposing barrier to European advance. Although Aborigines had been crossing the ranges for millennia, for almost three decades the Blue Mountains confined the convict settlement at Port Jackson to the coastal plain. If Sydney was a prison, then the Blue Mountains were the prison walls. Long before they were crossed, convicts had imagined them as the threshold of a better land. The name itself has been suggested as carrying a hint of romance "Some of those poor men and women who believed in an Australian utopia . . . looked to that western skyline as its gateway" (Alan Atkinson, The Europeans in Australia, 1997, p. 193).

The crossing of the Blue Mountains by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson in 1813, and the construction of a road two years later by Governor Macquarie, were significant breaches of the land barrier. These events subsequently came to be celebrated as a passage into a new land of promise.

The landscape of the Blue Mountains, with its exposed sandstone ridges and deep forested gorges, made a strong impression on the imaginations of poets and painters from the 1820s to the present day. In their Assessment of the World Heritage Values of the Blue Mountains, The Royal Botanic Gardens noted (p.213) that this "important cultural component of the cultural heritage" could not be covered in their report, but stressed its important associations with the history of exploration, natural history, conservation and tourism.

From an historical viewpoint, the areas of primary significance in relation to this sub-theme are those lying athwart the main line of westward expansion. Special importance attaches to such famous vistas as the Three Sisters, and Govett's Leap. The Panel noted that there are few surviving man-made structures from the first phase of European penetration of the Blue Mountains. An 1849 tollhouse at Mount Victoria on the western descent from the mountains, and the zig-zag railway constructed in the later nineteenth century were identified as amongst the most notable of these.

The Panel considered that, in combination with other features of the Blue Mountains identified elsewhere in this report, the cultural significance of the Blue Mountains as a land barrier may contribute strongly to its potential significance in an international or World Heritage context. In this regard, the Panel concluded that the expression of the sub-theme of land barriers as historical frontiers may have associative value, in contributing to the heritage values of the Blue Mountains if it is identified as a possible best global expression of another theme.

The Panel did not consider that there were any other likely best global expressions of this sub-theme in forested areas of terrestrial Australia.

Table 15 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Land barriers as historical frontiers".


ExemplarReason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Land barriers as historical frontiers

No places identified as warranting further investigation.

Blue Mountains, NSW.

Associative value

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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