Humane Society International was a key player in the development of the National Heritage List, which documents places of outstanding heritage importance to Australia.

The National Heritage List documents the places of outstanding heritage importance to Australia as a nation. Humane Society International (HSI) played a key role in the amendments to the EPBC “Heritage” Acts in 2003, which established the National Heritage List (NHL) and the Commonwealth Heritage List (CHL). National and Commonwealth Heritage listed places are recognised as Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES), which grants them protection from any activities that may impact their ecology.

The newly developed National Heritage program, valued at around $30 million, was the result of the amendments to the act. HSI continued its involvement as a member of the inaugural Australian Heritage Council (AHC), the principal advisor to the Australian Government on heritage matters.

In 2004, HSI worked alongside the Australian Museum, Commonwealth Environment Department and the CSIRO Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research to identify 14 biodiversity hotspots for priority assessment as National Heritage listed places. The National Heritage List currently includes over 50 natural area listings, including all 14 of the identified biodiversity hotspots.

HSI has also long been involved in the public nomination program which prioritises important natural areas to be assessed for a listing. HSI has now proposed over 50 National Heritage nominations for assessment by the Commonwealth. Notable nominations include the Australian Alps, which covers 1.6 million hectares in 11 National Parks and Nature Reserves; NSW’s Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, one of the top five plant biodiversity hotspots in Australia; and the West Kimberley in Western Australia.  

In 2011, over 19 million hectares of the West Kimberley was added to the National Heritage List, representing the largest land-based conservation area ever protected under Australian law. HSI helped to ensuring prioritisation for the site, nominated several areas within the Kimberley for listing and achieved recognition for the North Kimberley as a National Biodiversity Hotspot.  

Thirteen of HSI’s National Heritage Nominations are awaiting assessment, including the Great Western Woodlands in Western Australia and the Cooper Creek Sub-catchment Area in Queensland. With the amended heritage EPBC Act, the Commonwealth Heritage List (CHL) was established and facilitated the immediate protection of 32 Commonwealth owned natural areas. The amendments also recognised the significance of Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance, and now protect 65 of these sites under the EPBC Act.

View Australia's National Heritage List here, or explore Australia's Commonwealth Heritage List here.