Culture and heritage


Frequently asked questions

Heritage Listings
Government & heritage
Conservation & maintenance
Aboriginal heritage
Historical archaeology



When is the heritage festival?

The National Trust Heritage Festival (formerly Heritage Week) is held each year in April. You can visit the Trust's website at, or contact the Trust on 02 9258 0123 for further information.

Heritage listings


Is my property heritage listed?

It's easy to find out about heritage places in NSW. The NSW heritage database maintained by the Heritage Branch lists heritage items on statutory lists. It includes items listed on local council's local environmental plans and items on the State Heritage Register.

If you want to check if your property is listed, access the NSW heritage database on our website. If you need any further help, contact the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500.

Your local council will have the very latest information on local council listings. It is a good idea to also confirm with the council if you believe your property is listed on the Council's Local Environmental Plan (LEP).

What does listing mean?

Heritage listing provides formal recognition by your local council or the State Government that a place has heritage significance and that the community wants to keep it for future generations. There are two levels of statutory listing:

  • local heritage items listed on heritage schedules to a local council's Local Environment Plan (LEP). This covers most of the 20,000 heritage items in NSW; or
  • state heritage items listed on the State Heritage Register. This list includes only those items which have been identified as having particular importance to the people of NSW.

Owners of heritage-listed properties need to seek approval from the local council or the Heritage Council of NSW if they wish to make major changes which may affect the heritage significance of the place.

To find out more about the benefits and effects of listing for owners and the community, the facts versus the myths, and for a practical insight into how to make sympathetic changes, download Heritage listing explained - What it means for you (HeritageListing2010final.pdf, 2.5MB)

What is the difference between the State Heritage Inventory and the State Heritage Register?

The State Heritage Inventory (also known as the NSW heritage database) is an electronic database of almost 20,000 heritage items on statutory lists in NSW. It can be accessed through the Heritage Branch website. It includes all local council-listed items and all State Heritage Register listed items.

The State Heritage Register is a special section of the NSW heritage database and lists items of particular importance to the people of NSW. These items are listed under the NSW Heritage Act.

What is the difference between statutory and non-statutory lists?

Statutory lists: legal controls in the form of statutory lists help the community to look after those places for future generations. Approval of the local council or the Heritage Council is required before major changes are made to items on statutory lists. Statutory lists in NSW are:

  • schedules to council's local or regional environmental plans (LEPs or REPs)
  • the State Heritage Register;
  • the National Heritage List.

Non-statutory lists: community groups, professional bodies and some government bodies also compile lists of heritage items. They play an important role in alerting us to the potential heritage value of a place. Non-statutory registers in NSW include:

  • National Trust register
  • Register of the National Estate. The RNE is part of Commonwealth legislation. RNE listing does not involve the Heritage Act or the EP&A Act in NSW.
  • Registers compiled by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the Institution of Engineers Australia and other professional bodies.

How do I get information about heritage listing that has legal standing?

If you need information on heritage listing when buying or selling a property or in other circumstances where documents with legal standing are required, you will need to apply for a certificate.

  • For items listed on a council's Local Environmental Plan (LEP) or Regional Environmental Plan (REP), contact the local council for a s149 Certificate.
  • For items listed on the State Heritage Register, apply for a section 167 Certificate. To fast track your certificate we recommend that you send your application form directly to the Department of Lands Property Information Service. Allow five days for a section 167 certificate to be processed. The fee is $100.
    Download the 167 certificate application form (section167form2012.pdf, 17KB).

Can I make changes to my heritage-listed property?

Heritage listing is a way of ensuring that any proposed changes to a heritage place respect and retain those qualities and characteristics that make it special. Listing doesn't necessarily mean that you can't make changes to your property. It does mean that for certain kinds of work you need to get approval from the council or the Heritage Council of NSW. Works such as routine maintenance, repairs and upgrading of services do not normally require approval.

How do I get approval to carry out work?

If your property is listed on a council's Local Environmental Plan, contact your local council. Many local councils in NSW have heritage officers or advisors who can assist you with any enquiries.

When proposing to make any significant changes to items on the State Heritage Register, contact the Heritage Branch for advice on the approval process. You can download a Section 60 application form from the Permits and applications page.

I found a property I think should be listed on the State Heritage Register - what do I do?

Anyone can nominate a place for listing on the State Heritage Register. The Heritage Branch works with the community to identify special places and objects for nomination. However, remember that only items of state heritage significance can be considered for listing on the register, so the first step is to ask whether the property is important for the whole of NSW. If you think the property has the potential to reach this threshold, the next step is to fill out a nomination form.

A heritage place in my local area appears to be under threat, what can I do?

If you are concerned about a heritage place, firstly contact your local council. Many local councils now have heritage officers or advisors who can help you with further information. If the item is not listed, you may wish to speak to the local council (or relevant agency if it is State-owned) about recognizing its heritage value. Think about why you consider the place to be of heritage significance and consult other community members or groups. New listings should be based on heritage significance, and not simply on the desire to stop a development.

I think a property is heritage listed and the owners have altered it without permission. What should I do?

If a place is listed on a statutory heritage list, then any major changes need to be approved by either the Heritage Council or the local council to ensure they are sympathetic. If this has not happened, then there may have been a breach of the Heritage Act or the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and the owners may be liable for prosecution. There are, however, some kinds of work that are exempt from the need for formal approval.

Firstly, check what kind of listing covers the property by searching the online Heritage database. If the property is listed on the State Heritage Register, contact the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500. If the property is listed on a council's local environmental plan, contact the relevant council and ask to speak to their heritage officer.

To find out more about the responsibilities and benefits of owning a heritage-listed place, go to the Heritage listing explained page.

Owners also have a responsibility to undertake basic measures such as inspecting a heritage place regularly and securing and protecting it against weather, fire and vandalism, so that it will not further deteriorate. View the Minimum standards of maintenance and repair (infominimumstandards.pdf, 39KB)



How do I contact the Chair of the Heritage Council?

The Heritage Council is an advisory body that provides advice to the Minister for Planning. All enquiries to the Heritage Council and the Chair of the Heritage Council should be directed through the Heritage Branch. Tel:02 9873 8500

How do I contact the Minister about an important heritage issue?

Enquiries to the Minister's office on heritage matters are normally referred first to the Heritage Branch for advice. A direct enquiry to the Heritage Branch will save you time.

The telephone number for the office of the Minister can be found on the Parliament of NSW site.



How do I get a copy of the NSW Heritage Act?

State legislation is available through the NSW Government Information Service:

  • ground floor, Goodsell Building, cner Elizabeth and Hunter Streets, Sydney;
  • credit card orders over the phone, 02 9743 7200.

The Australian Legal Information Institute provides free internet access to Australian legal materials, including legislation. Access their homepage at: Austlii can also be accessed via the NSW Government site.

Government and heritage


What are the heritage responsibilities of government?

A hundred years ago the business of government was one of the biggest enterprises in the country. We can see the legacy of that activity all around us: post offices, police stations, court houses, railways, roads and bridges. Not surprisingly, much of the significant heritage in NSW is owned or managed by State government agencies. The Heritage Act requires them to compile a register of their heritage assets and to look after them on behalf of the community. The government expects that its own agencies will lead by example in heritage management.

For further information:

  • Contact the appropriate government agency and ask for the person or department responsible for heritage matters or asset management;
  • Consult the State Agency Heritage Guide, endorsed by the Heritage Council of NSW in 2004. Click here to go to the Publications and forms page;
  • Consult NSW Government and Heritage published by the Heritage Branch. Click here to go to the Publications and forms page;
  • For enquiries from State agencies, contact the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500 to speak to the heritage officer assigned to your particular agency.

Can government-owned heritage be listed on the State Heritage Register?

Yes. Government agencies identify and assess their heritage by preparing a register (known as a Section 170 Heritage and Conservation Register). Those items which are considered to be of special significance to the people of NSW are nominated for listing on the State Heritage Register. You can search the State Heritage Register online.

How do Government agencies manage their heritage assets?

The Heritage Act requires government agencies to prepare a Heritage and Conservation Register. This is a list of heritage assets owned, occupied or managed by the agency and includes an assessment of their heritage significance. It also includes a thematic history of the agency. The register identifies buildings, but may also include natural, movable and Aboriginal heritage. The purpose of the register is to assist agencies care for their heritage assets and make decisions about their future conservation and development. The Heritage Branch provides free computer software and training to assist agencies prepare a Register.

For further information:

  • Read about best practice government asset management in the Department of Public Works and Services' Total Asset Management Manual
  • See what a Heritage and Conservation Register looks like by searching the register on the Roads and Maritime Services's website;
  • Consult NSW Government and Heritage, available from Publications and forms;
  • Consult the State Agency Heritage Guide, endorsed by the Heritage Council of NSW in 2004. Available from Publications and forms;
  • Contact the Listings Team at the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500.

Conservation and maintenance


How do I find out the appropriate colour schemes for my old house?

There are a number of books and references available in book shops or libraries which can help you find the right colours for your house. A good starting point is Colour Schemes for Old Australian Houses or More Colour Schemes for Old Australian Houses by Ian Evans, whose website is available at

How do I go about looking after my old house?

Regular maintenance and upkeep of old buildings is cheaper and more effective than undertaking major repairs every 20 years or so. Often major jobs can be prevented if simple things like cleaning gutters and fixing leaking down-pipes are carried out on a regular basis. The Heritage Branch can provide practical and technical advice on a range of maintenance problems from rising damp to roof plumbing. See the Maintenance Series information sheets listed on the Publications and forms page.

Is funding available for repair work on my heritage-listed property?

The Heritage Branch can provide advice on funding options for your particular maintenance or conservation issue. Telephone Victoria Throp 02 9873 8577 or Miriam Stacy 02 9873 8576 at the Heritage Branch to discuss your repair work.

If your property is listed on the State Heritage Register, you may be eligible for funding under our Heritage Incentives Program. Go to the Funding page to view the 12 programs, including Program 1. which offers grants or loans for physical conservation work to items of state significance, Program 2. Land Tax and Local Rate Rebate Grant for Private Owners and Program 5. which provides funding for works to state significant items, in urgent or special circumstances.

A number of local councils provide small grants or loans to assist heritage projects. Go to the page on Funding through other sources to check if your local council has a local heritage fund.

How do I find good tradespeople to do heritage conservation work?

You can search the online Conservation products & services directory to view a listing of tradespeople specialising in heritage work. Further listings can be found in the Yellow Pages. Always ask for references when contacting tradespeople.

How do I find an architect or consultant experienced in heritage work?

The Heritage Branch provides an online directory of heritage professionals who work in heritage. However, this list is a guide only and does not imply endorsement or accreditation by the Heritage Council or Heritage Branch. In the Conservation & technical section you'll find the Heritage consultants directory, as well as other information on making changes to heritage places.

I am a consultant and want to be added to your Heritage Consultants Directory. How do I go about it?

If you are a heritage consultant, who would like to be added to the Heritage consultants directory, take the following steps:

You can also Email your inquiries or any additional material to: or

I am a tradesman and want to be added to your Conservation Products & Services Directory. How do I go about it?

Businesses or services can be added to the directory. Note that inclusion on the list is not an endorsement of particular products or services. If you would like your business to be considered for the directory, take the following steps:

You can also Email your inquiries or any additional material to: or



How do I find out about the history of a heritage place?

Finding out about the history of a place can add to its significance and appeal, as well as being an important first step when undertaking conservation work. The Heritage Branch has a number of guides to help you when undertaking research. Historical Research for Heritage is a free information brochure which you can download. A more detailed guide is Investigating History which is part of the NSW Heritage Manual. To download or purchase these documents, go to the Publications and forms page.

Organisations and contacts which will be useful for your research include:

What information is available about the history of the heritage system in NSW?

The Heritage Branch historians have prepared a number of papers regarding more specific aspects of the heritage system, (such as The History of Heritage Listing - infolistinghistory.pdf, 224KB) which you can download. There are also several publications that deal with this subject in a broad sense. Useful publications that should be consulted include G. Davison & C. McConville, A Heritage Handbook (1991), J. Rickard & P. Spearitt, Packaging the Past? (1991), and J. Mundey, Green Bans and Beyond (1981).

Other collections and places where you may find information and research include:

  • University collections of theses and dissertations;
  • Royal Australian Historical Society journals and newsletter, 02 9247 8001;
  • National Trust of Australia (NSW and other states/territories) publications, 02 9258 0123;
  • Public History Review, published by the Professional Historians Association (NSW).

Aboriginal heritage


Why should Aboriginal heritage be listed?

Listing a significant item of Aboriginal heritage on the State Heritage Register recognises the significance of Aboriginal culture & heritage to NSW. It means that this significant item is preserved for future generations to enjoy. And it is an opportunity to develop awareness within the community.

Isn't the Heritage Act the same as the National Parks & Wildlife Act?

No, they are different and provide two very different levels of protection. While the NPWS Act provides statutory protection for all Aboriginal objects and places, the Heritage Act protects particular places and items that the community has formally recognized as being of high cultural value.

What's the difference between the State Heritage Register and the NPWS Register?

The State Heritage Register should not be confused with the National Parks & Wildlife (NPWS) Register which lists Aboriginal sites and places in NSW. The NPWS is resonsible for the protection and preservation of all Aboriginal places and objects in NSW. The State Heritage Register protects particular places and items that the community has formally recognized as being of high cultural value. The State Heritage Register provides an extra layer of protection beyond that provided by NPWS registers, as it protects against any damage or destruction to 'significant heritage places'.

Can any Aboriginal heritage item be listed on the State Heritage Register?

No. The State Heritage Register is for the recognition of places or items which the community has deemed to be highly significant to their cultural & heritage values or to the Aboriginal peoples of NSW.

I think I've found an Aboriginal site, what do I do?

Aboriginal sites in NSW are primarily protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Contact the relevant NSW Regional Aboriginal Heritage Division:

  • Metropolitan Region: 02 9585 6679
  • Northern Region: 02 664 2057
  • Southern Region: 02 6298 9710

If the site is under immediate threat, please urgently contact the NPWS Head Office on 02 9585 6444 or contact the Aboriginal Heritage Officer at the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500 for further advice.

Which Aboriginal groups should I be consulting in my area?

Contact the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council on 02 9689 4444 for the relevant Local Aboriginal Land Council. The Land Council should NOT be the only point of contact. Also contact the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on 02 9290 8700 or the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 02 9585 6444 for other relevant Aboriginal community organisations, or contact the Aboriginal Heritage Officer at the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500 for further advice.

What is the role of Aboriginal Heritage Advisory Panel?

The Aboriginal Heritage Advisory Panel provides advice on managing and conserving heritage places that are important to Aboriginal communities. A key role is providing advice to the Heritage Council of NSW on Aboriginal issues from a regional and community perspective.

The panel can also recommend grants through the Heritage Incentives Program to Aboriginal organisations or community groups to help them identify, conserve or promote Aboriginal Heritage in NSW.

While funding is targetted to Aboriginal communities and organisations, non-indigenous organisations such as local councils are encouraged to seek grant co-funding in partnership with an Aboriginal community applicant.

What kind of Aboriginal projects do you fund?

Funding is provided through the Heritage Incentives Program for a wide variety of projects that support Aboriginal heritage in NSW. Projects that have been funded in the past include interpretation projects, Aboriginal heritage trails, mapping projects, conservation work on former mission sites, oral histories. For details on eligibility and how to submit an application go to the Heritage incentives program page. Applications can be made any time.

Do you fund family histories?

The Heritage Incentives Program can provide funding for historical work, particularly thematic histories. However, funding is not generally available for family histories. For Aboriginal Heritage this means that a community history would be eligible for funding, but a family history would not qualify in most cases.

How do I apply for a grant?

You can check if your project is eligible and download an application form from the Funding page on this website.

After reading the relevant information and listing anything that you are unsure of, contact the Aboriginal Heritage Officer, for further information on 02 9873 8567 or email

Applications can be made at any time during the year. Note that applications need to be received at least 14 days before a meeting of the Aboriginal Heritage Advisory Panel to be considered at that meeting. The Aboriginal Heritage Officer can provide dates of upcoming meetings.



How can I get access to a shipwreck site?

Most protected underwater sites do not require a permit from the Heritage Branch. Most good dive stores will have information about those sites that do require a permit. Speak to the Maritime Archaeologist at the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500.

How do I find out about shipwrecks off the NSW coast?

Refer to the Shipwreck Atlas of New South Wales. To purchase the Shipwreck Atlas go to the Publications and forms page for details and an order form. The Atlas and other shipwreck information is also in the State Library and the Australian National Maritime Museum library.

Search the Maritime heritage online website and shipwreck database.

Search the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) website which includes the national shipwreck database.

What do I do if I find a shipwreck?

Obtain a Shipwreck Reporting Form from the Maritime Heritage Online site. If the wreck has not previously been reported, you will then be acknowledged as the official finder of the wreck. At a suitable opportunity, you will also be presented with an atttractive award plaque.

Is shipwreck X protected?

Search the Maritime Heritage Online website shipwreck database. If the wreck is over 75 years old and lies in coastal waters it is protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act, 1976. If the wreck is of State or local significance and inside a river or harbour, or is on or under dry land, it will be protected by the relics provisions of the NSW Heritage Act, 1977 and if it is 75 years old it will also be on the NSW Historic Shipwreck Register.

Historical archaeology


Where can I visit an archaeological site?

Some historical archaeological sites have been interpreted for the public and are accessible to visitors. These sites may be accessible either on a permanent basis or under appointment. Check Archaeological sites with interpretation for the public for more information.

How can I work as a volunteer on an archaeological investigation?

Most archaeological work is carried out by trained specialists. But occasionally, on big major projects members of the community are invited to participate on the archaeological excavation under the supervision of the excavation director for the site. Check the Historical archaeological section, newspapers and other media for community volunteering opportunities.

What do I do if I find an archaeological relic or artefact?

If you think that you have found an archaeological relic or site, ring our historical archaeologists at the Heritage Branch on 02 9873 8500. Do not remove or disturb the relic in any way. Depending on the nature of the find, you may be required to undertake some archaeological investigation on the site. These investigations may require a permit under the Heritage Act. Aboriginal sites and artefacts are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Enquiries about these sites should be directed to your local NPWS office.

A relic is defined in the Heritage Act as 'any artefact, object or material evidence which relates to the settlement of the area that comprises New South Wales, not being Aboriginal settlement, and which is of State or local heritage significance.'

How do I apply for an excavation permit?

If you are excavating land and know that you will disturb a relic, or think that you might disturb a relic, then you need to get an excavation permit issued by the Heritage Council of NSW. To find out more or to download an application form, go to the Permits and applications page.

Are human skeletal remains considered relics under the Heritage Act?

A relic is defined in the Heritage Act as 'any deposit, object or material evidence which relates to the settlement of the area that comprises New South Wales, not being Aboriginal settlement, and which is of State or local heritage significance.' Therefore non-Aboriginal human remains with heritage value (for example historic, genealogical, social, aesthetic, religious, scientific or other significance) are considered a relic under the Act and, therefore, cannot be disturbed without an excavation permit. Headstones, grave enclosures, grave goods and associated objects may also considered relics under the Act.

Human skeletal remains and burial sites assessed as being of heritage significance should, as a principle, not be disturbed and the excavation and moving of human remains and burials should be regarded as a last resort. Consult our publication Skeletal Remains for more information. It can be purchased from the Publications and forms page.

How do I find out about the archaeological potential of my property?

Many archaeological sites have already been identified through heritage studies, archaeological management plans, archaeological zoning plans or other types of research. Some of those sites are listed on local or regional environmental plans or on the State Heritage Register. However, large parts of the State have not been investigated by archaeologists as yet. If the area where your property is located has not been subject to investigation you may need to undertake an archaeological assessment to find out whether a valuable archaeological site could be lying beneath the surface.

Movable heritage


What is movable heritage?

Movable heritage is a term used to define any natural or manufactured object of heritage significance. It does not include archaeological relics found underwater or underground. Movable heritage ranges from significant everyday objects to antiques and may be a single item, a group of items or a whole collection.

How do I find out more about movable heritage?

The Heritage Branch has two free brochures on movable heritage:

How do I look after a special object?

We need to understand why items are culturally significant before we make decisions on how to care for them. The Powerhouse Museum publishes a good handbook for those looking after movable items. Caring for Heritage Objects provides some basic guidelines on storage and conservation.

The Museums & Galleries Foundation of NSW can also help you with conservation guidance and practical advice on caring for particular objects. They can be contacted on 02 9358 1760,

Can I move an item?

Moving an item may diminish its significance and create new storage and conservation problems in another place. Depending on the item's cultural significance, it is important to explore all possible options for retaining movable heritage in its heritage place, cultural group, community or the region it is associated with. Some items are listed on the State Heritage Register and need permission from the Heritage Branch before they can be removed.



Who do I contact about cemetery conservation?

Cemeteries Officers

The Heritage Branch financially supports the appointment of officers at the National Trust whose duties include providing advice on cemetery conservation and management. They also provide assistance to the general public in the preparation of NSW Heritage Assistance Program grants for cemeteries.

Please ring the Cemeteries Officer at the Trust on 9258 0123.

Can a grave be listed on the State Heritage Register?

Places and objects of all different kinds can be listed on the State Heritage Register, including graves and burial sites. There are already a number of graves, significant to the whole of NSW, listed on the register. These include the grave of Windradyne, a great Aboriginal warrior and leader who was buried near Sofala, and, near Molong, the grave of Yuranigh who guided explorer Major Mitchell. And on the mid-North Coast the Port Macquarie Burying Grounds are listed for their significance to colonial history.

Page last updated: 16 March 2018