2017 marks 20 years of the Tasmanian Heritage Register.
At its inaugural meeting on 12 March 1997, the Tasmanian Heritage Council “following considerable discussion", provisionally entered the Port Arthur Historic Site to the Register “in that it meets all the criteria set out in Section 16" of the Heritage Act.
As the push for World Heritage Listing of convict sites across Australia gathered pace, in 2008 the Tasmanian Heritage Council revised the entry to more comprehensively explain the history of the site. The revision also more accurately reflected the significance of site with the addition of a statement of significance.
The statement reads:
Developed specifically for secondary offenders between 1830 and 1877, Port Arthur is perhaps the best-known symbol of Australia's convict past, representing one of the foundational stories in Tasmania's and the nation's history.
Port Arthur demonstrates the adaptation of the 19th British penal system to Australian conditions. Forced labour created essential infrastructure and the foundation for an industrial establishment manufacturing a wide range of material and goods for both government and private markets.
A number of Port Arthur institutions pioneered new aspects of British and American 19thcentury penal and social ideas and practice, for example, the Point Puer reformist institution for convict boys; the Dockyard where convict labour was used to build both essential infrastructure and vessels; the Separate Prison and the Asylum which were used for managing criminals and the mentally ill; and the Paupers Depot which was used to maintain men incapable of living independently.
Port Arthur Historic Site has a high degree of integrity and has become the exemplar of Tasmanian tourism. Its landscape, ruins and formal layout symbolise a transformation in Australian attitudes from revulsion at the hated stain to a celebration of the convict past.
Over the last 30 years Port Arthur has set a benchmark in the development of Australian historical archaeological method and theory, and also of heritage tourism and management at a national level.
The tragedy of 28 April 1996, when a lone gunman shot and killed 35 people and wounded 19 others, added another layer to the sites history and as a result of this horrendous event, new guns laws controlling gun ownership were introduced across the nation.
Many notable historic figures, including administrators and convicts, artists and writers have been associated with Port Arthur.
Port Arthur, along with Brickendon, Woolmers, Coal Mines, Cascades Female Factory and Darlington Probation Station, was inscribed on the World Heritage List on 31 July 2010 as part of the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage serial listing.
As part of its program of work for 2017, the Heritage Council is undertaking a series of projects to enhance existing entries on the Heritage Register, including improving those entries that lack detailed information and statements of significance.