Culture and heritage

Heritage of NSW

Multicultural heritage in New South Wales

Why is multicultural heritage important?

Across NSW, there are many ethnic communities that have made a rich contribution to our history and character. Twenty-seven percent of Australians have at least one parent born overseas. And 23% of Australians were themselves born overseas and 16% speak a language other than English at home.

The Chinese, the Greek, the Italian, the Arabic, the Vietnamese and many other communities have all played a role in determining the character and landscape of the society we live in today.

The recognition, exploration and celebration of our multicultural heritage is a key priority of the Heritage Council. By listing more places of particular importance to ethnic communities, the State Heritage Register will better reflect our cultural diversity.

What is the role of the Heritage Division?

The Heritage Division (OEH) works with communities to help them identify their special places and objects. The aim is to:

  • develop an awareness within ethnic communities of the heritage system in NSW and how it works;
  • encourage these communities to identify and celebrate places important to the history of their settlement in the state;
  • assist with the listing of places of particular importance to ethnic communities;
  • provide financial support to community projects through the Heritage Incentives Program.

Thematic histories

The Heritage Division has commissioned thematic histories of the Chinese, Greek and Italo-Australian communities in NSW. There has also been a study done for Charles Sturt University on the Dutch community. These innovative projects synthesise information from secondary sources according to the main themes of each community's settlement patterns and cultural development. They also identify potential heritage items.

These histories are provided as PDF documents. With Acrobat Reader, PDF files can be downloaded to your system to be viewed and printed.

Chinese thematic history [1999]

The Dutch in NSW; a thematic history [2005]

Greek thematic history [2001]

Italo-Australian thematic history [2001]

Multicultural projects supported by the heritage incentives program

Tell us your story
"Racconta la tua Storia!" is an oral history project which documents the achievements and contributions made by the Italian community of the Newcastle area. Supported by the Heritage Incentives Program, the Italian Australian Hunter Heritage Project interviewed migrants to hear the story of their experiences in Australia in their own words. The interviews were fully transcribed and translated. A copy of the interviews is available in the Heritage Branch Library.

Leichhardt plaques project
The Plaques Project, which is jointly funded by the Heritage Branch and Leichhardt Council and supported by Co.As.It., is an outcome of research carried out by Leichhardt Council in 2000-01 on the Italian heritage of Leichhardt. The project recognises the contributions made by particular Italian Australian businesses to the heritage and character of the Leichhardt area. This recognition will take the form of special plaques mounted on the premises selected.

Italian fruit shops project
This research project in collaboration with UTS has attacted lots of interest from the Italian Australian community. To date over forty taped interviews have been recorded and 300 beautiful photographs collected. The project recommenced in March 2003 with Dr Paul Ashton, head of public history at UTS, directing the project. Paul is seeking a publisher and funding to produce a photographic hsitory and wants to mount an exhibition.

Chinese Australian cultural heritage in New South Wales
One of the major aims of the CACH-NSW Project was to create an inventory of Chinese heritage places in NSW that would feed into a national database of Chinese Australian cultural heritage. Thirty-five Chinese heritage sites in NSW were identified and researched. This project which has generated considerable interest in Chinese heritage was supported by a grant from the Heritage Incentives Program in 2002-04. The data collected on these heritage sites can be accessed by searching the NSW heritage database.

Golden Threads Companion: Chinese movable heritage across regional NSW
The Golden Threads project has uncovered movable heritage in local museums and private collections that tells the story of the Chinese presence across NSW. The stories and objects have been presented in an exhibition and on the Golden Threads website. The Heritage Incentives program has provided support for a publication to explore thematic aspects of the Chinese in NSW. It is anticipated that the Golden Threads Companion will be published in mid 2004.


The NSW Migration Heritage Centre
The NSW Migration Heritage Centre identifies, records, preserves and interprets the heritage of migration and settlement in New South Wales from 1788 to the present day. Located at at the Powerhouse Museum, it is a New South Wales Government initiative supported by the Community Relations Commission'.

New Italy: A Living Heritage
This is the official website for The New Italy Heritage Settlement Site, located in Woodburn NSW.

Page last updated: 23 November 2015