The Authenticity of Community Participation in Heritage in New South Wales

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Copyright: Sullivan, Kirrily
This thesis is concerned with the role of the community in the conservation of its cultural heritage. In the current pro-developer climate, built heritage in New South Wales is under constant threat, coupled with significantly reduced heritage conservation funding across all tiers of government. A broadened understanding of who heritage belongs to, and who should be involved in decision-making processes, has resulted in efforts by powerholders to develop policies that emphasise the importance of community participation. The aim of this research is to investigate the authenticity of those participation efforts and the actual power of the community to influence the outcomes of the decision-making process. This research centres around three case studies: Strickland House, Carrathool Bridge and the Sirius Apartment building, each a site owned by the New South Wales State Government that included a significant level of community consultation as part of determining their fate. The thesis draws on both oral testimony and primary documents to investigate the authenticity of the consultation processes, alongside the seminal 1969 work of Sherry Arnstein and later interpretations of her Ladder of Citizen Participation. Where communities have then taken on the role of activists to protect their heritage, the tactics and strategies they employed to enact change will be examined in conjunction with models for nonviolent confrontation, including community organiser Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan. The case studies indicate that often there is no real power for negotiation and no assurance that the public’s concerns and ideas will be considered. There appears to be a gap between the written strategies and statements of government heritage departments and agencies, and the reality of implementation and genuine collaboration. The actual role of the community often amounts to little more than government rhetoric. By utilising classic social activism tactics to protect sites of cultural significance, local communities can gain the power to influence the protection and management of their heritage denied to them by the powerholders.
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PhD Doctorate
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