Last updated 8 February 2023

Queensland Heritage Register

The Queensland Heritage Act 1992 (Qld) creates a framework to protect places or objects of cultural heritage significance for aesthetic, architectural, historic, scientific, social or technological reasons. In practice, the Act mainly protects built European heritage such as historic buildings. It does not generally protect Indigenous cultural heritage.

The principal mechanism in the Act is the Queensland Heritage Register, which is a list of places, trees, natural formations and buildings of cultural heritage significance. Each entry in the register includes information about the place’s history, its physical fabric, statements of its significance and location details.

The principal prohibitions imposed by the Act are not to:

  • carry out development affecting a place on the Queensland Heritage Register without approval
  • enter a designated landscape area except with permission
  • take, destroy, damage, deface, excavate, expose, conceal or interfere with an item of Queensland heritage.

Development involving a place listed on the Queensland Heritage Register is assessable development that generally requires approval under the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) (Planning Act).

More information about the Act is available from the Department of Environment and Science.

Local heritage

Local heritage may be protected at a local government level. For instance, some local government planning schemes (e.g. the Brisbane City Plan 2014) specifically recognise heritage places and establish character residential areas to protect historic buildings and the traditional character of towns. Development such as demolition or building work involving these places may require approval from the council under the Planning Act.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage

The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld) and the Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld) provide a framework for the protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage. The main mechanism through which each Act operates is a list of places and artefacts of heritage significance. The Acts also create offences such as breach of the cultural heritage duty of care. This duty of care requires a person carrying out an activity to take all reasonable and practicable measures to ensure the activity does not harm Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (Cth) provides for the protection of significant Aboriginal areas and objects as declared under the Act by the Commonwealth Environment Minister, an authorised officer or inspector.

National heritage

The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) provides for listing and management of places with national heritage values on the National Heritage List. Any person may nominate a place for inclusion on this list. Some actions that are likely to have a significant impact on the national heritage values of a national heritage place require approval under the Act (s 15B). A Commonwealth Heritage List is also created under the Act for heritage in a Commonwealth area.

The Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 (Cth) regulates the import and export of protected objects of national importance for ethnological, archaeological, historical, literary, artistic, scientific or technological reasons. The Act established the National Cultural Heritage Control List. The list is divided into two categories of protected objects that are subject to export control.

Historic shipwrecks

The Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 (Cth) provides a regime for protecting historic shipwrecks and relics in Australian waters.

The regime is based upon a declaration made by the Commonwealth Environment Minister and prohibits access to declared areas or sites and the removal of relics without authority under the Act. There are 18 declared historic shipwrecks and five protected zones from 200 located shipwrecks in waters adjacent to Queensland.