World Heritage List process

Places are only added to the World Heritage List after an independent assessment can demonstrate it represents the most outstanding of the world’s natural and/or cultural heritage. The decision about which places are added to the World Heritage list is made by the International UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Proposed World Heritage sites must also have an adequate management framework in place to protect and manage them. The overall process involves a number of complex steps. A key component of the process is the free prior and informed consent of First Nations people.

1. National Heritage Listing

The Australian Government identifies places to nominate for World Heritage from the National Heritage list. Nominations for the National Heritage list can be made by any individual or organisation. Nominations are then assessed by the Australian Heritage Council.

2. World Heritage Tentative List

Drawing on the National Heritage list, the next step in the process is to have the place added to the Australian World Heritage Tentative List, which indicates Australia’s future intention to nominate for World Heritage listing. The Tentative List Submission is registered with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and must be on the Tentative List for at least 12 months before it can be nominated for the World Heritage List by the Australian Government.

3. World Heritage listing nomination

A comprehensive nomination dossier is then prepared, which demonstrates the ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ of the place. To be considered of Outstanding Universal Value, a property needs to:

  • meet one or more of ten criteria to meet the conditions of integrity
  • if a cultural property, meet the conditions of authenticity, and
  • have an adequate system of protection and management to safeguard its future.

4. Assessment

The Australian Government submits a nomination for World Heritage listing to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre where it is assessed by an independent technical advisory body and relevant experts. The nomination must be submitted by 1 February each year for consideration by the World Heritage Committee Secretariat in the following year. The assessment process takes at least one year to complete.

5. The decision

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meet once a year to decide which nominated places will be inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Committee can decide to list, defer, refer or not list the nomination. If the nomination is deferred or referred, it means more information is required before a decision can be made.

Benefits of being added to the World Heritage List

World Heritage listing is the highest global recognition of the significance of a place, which can bring a range of potential benefits and opportunities for the community, surrounding regions and nation, including:

  • improved conservation and protection of the World Heritage site
  • increased promotion
  • increased tourist visitation
  • increased revenue
  • employment opportunities
  • a sense of community pride.