By ALLISON HORE
A large part of Sydney’s CBD was added to the National Heritage list this week.
The 100 hectare site known as the Governor’s Domain and Civic Precinct is on the eastern side of Sydney’s Central Business District and extends from the Botanic gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s chair through to Hyde Park and Museum station.
Sites included in the sweeping listing include the First Government House site, Hyde Park Barracks, the Conservatorium of Music, the Mint and Parliament House, Hyde Park, the Domain, Macquarie Place and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The historic precinct is also associated with significant figures in Australia’s history including Bennelong, Governors Phillip and Macquarie and Francis Greenway.
Many of these buildings already have state heritage recognition, but Minister for the Arts Don Harwin says the National Heritage listing “unites the shared history and better links the buildings as a heritage precinct.”
The National Heritage registry recognises and protects places that reflect Australia’s unique landscapes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and development as a nation.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the area is a “layered landscape” which showcases how Sydney has changed over time, from its earliest use by Aboriginal people through to its role as a penal colony and early European settlement, to the modern city that it is today.
“The precinct depicts a society in transition and its range of archaeological assets provide a rare and valuable source of research into Australia’s early colonial history,” she said.
“Among the treasures are Australia’s first hospital, Parliament and civic institutions, public parks, gardens and places of worship that ultimately helped to cultivate Australia’s independence from Britain.”
Indigenous heritage expert Rachel Perkins, who sits on the Australian Heritage Council, noted the importance of Bennelong Point as the place where Bennelong invited the colonisers to witness their first documented corroboree. But she said it’s important to recognise the history of the area is “nuanced” and that the listed area was also the colonial base from which violence was committed against the Indigenous people.
“In any recognition of the development of colonial Australia, it’s imperative we acknowledge the Indigenous perspective. This was a site that had the first very intimate relationships between Eora people of that area and the colonisers,” Ms. Perkins told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Nominations for new National Heritage listings are open until 25 February 2021 and Minister Ley said she hopes to prioritise Indigenous cultural heritage in this assessment period.
“Our First Nations people have lived here for tens of thousands of years, and I want to see more places listed for their Indigenous values,” Minister Ley added.
Urban designer and independent City of Sydney councillor Philip Thalis said the heritage listing for the “core historic precinct” and “priceless parkland” is “an initiative we can all support.”
“Rather surprising this wasn’t already the case… but let’s do it now,” he said.