Heritage Listing – What is it?

Recently there has been a range of buildings, locations or sites that have invoked Heritage Status as the key element of the requirement for preservation. For the main we here at Balance Architecture and Interior Design are concerned with Heritage Listings referring to buildings, internal fitouts and associated groundworks – the Architecture, the design, the history.


The Victorian Heritage Register has quite specific criteria on which it will base a Heritage Registration. For the purposes of clarity we provide you with the information here so that you can both understand Heritage Listings and ensure suitable buildings, locations and objects are covered in a manner you have perceived.


Find out how to nominate a place to the Victorian Heritage Register, alter or remove a registration, or download registration forms and guidelines.

Any place or object registered by the Heritage Council is of special cultural heritage significance to the State of Victoria and legally protected to help ensure it survives for future generations to appreciate.

Registration doesn’t mean it can’t be sold, prevent it being employed for a different use, or guarantee that it will never be altered:

Registration Process Chart (PDF, 345.4 KB)

What registration means (PDF, 50.3 KB)

Owner rights and obligations

If a place or object is recommended, we provide a report to the owners and seek their views before adding a place or object to the register. This includes:

  • a statement of cultural heritage significance
  • a proposed extent of registration
  • proposed activities that may not require a permit.

Owners of a place or object subject to an Executive Director recommendation have obligations (DOCX, 460.9 KB) to ensure that the place/object is protected prior to the Heritage Council making a decision about whether it should be included in the Register.

Owners guide

Heritage Victoria has published a new brochure for owners of Victorian Heritage Register listed places.  It provides important information relevant to you as an owner or custodian of a heritage asset, including information regarding the Living Heritage Grants Program which provides conservation funding for Victorian Heritage Register listed places.


Anyone can nominate a place or object to the Victorian Heritage Register, but only a small percentage of them will meet the Heritage Council of Victoria’s criteria.

Confirm eligibility

Before you complete a nomination form ask yourself the questions below. If you answer yes to any of them you’ll probably need to look at other protections for the place or object:

Is the place or object solely of local significance?

The Heritage Register is reserved for places and objects which are considered to be important to Victoria as a whole.

Places of purely local significance are more appropriately identified through heritage overlays to the local planning scheme. If you believe the place is mainly important in the context of its local area, you should contact the relevant local council.

Is the place or object solely of natural or environmental significance?

The Heritage Act applies only to places of cultural heritage significance.

Some places that are solely of natural or environmental significance will be protected by virtue of their land management status. For example, forests, coastlines or areas of remnant vegetation will often constitute public land that is managed as a National Park, State Park, Coastal Park, fauna reserve or similar.

Other places that are solely of natural or environmental significance may be more appropriately identified and managed through Environmental Significance Overlays, Significant Landscape Overlays or Vegetation Protection Overlays in local planning schemes If you believe the place is important solely for its natural or environmental values, you should contact the relevant local council.

Is the place or object solely of Aboriginal significance?

The Heritage Act doesn’t apply to places and objects which are important only in respect of their association with Aboriginal tradition or traditional use.

Such places are better protected through legislation administered by Aboriginal Victoria

Nomination form

You must use the correct form:

Application to nominate a place or object for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register form (DOCX, 134.6 KB)

The form includes a detailed guide to help you complete it accurately:

  • read the guide carefully
  • make sure you complete mandatory sections
  • provide attachments where required.

We won’t consider your application if:

  • it’s incomplete
  • it has inadequate or insufficient information
  • it’s for a place or object that has already been considered and rejected, unless you provide substantial new information.

Victorian Heritage Register

For a place or object to be included in the Victorian Heritage Register it must meet at least one of the Heritage Council of Victoria’s Criteria for Assessment.

Use the Criteria and Threshold Guidelines to help you apply the criteria to your application.

7 August 2008: Criteria adopted by the Heritage Council pursuant to Sections 8(1)(c) and 8(2) of the Heritage Act 1995:

Criterion A – Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history.

Criterion B – Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history.

Criterion C – Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history.

Criterion D – Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.

Criterion E – Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.

Criterion F – Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

Criterion G – Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This includes the significance of a place to Indigenous peoples as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions.

Criterion H – Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.

GuidelinesThe Guidelines (DOCX, 249.3 KB) for nomination to the Victorian heritage Register (VHR) provides valuable information to support you in developing a nomination for the VHR.

Landscapes of Cultural Heritage Significance

The Assessment Guidelines will help you understand, identify and assess the cultural values of landscapes in Victoria. These Landscape Guidelines were endorsed by Heritage Council of Victoria and Heritage Victoria in February 2015.

If a place is nominated to the Victorian Heritage Register, these Guidelines supplement The Victorian Heritage Register Criteria and Threshold Guidelines.

Landscape Assessment Guidelines (DOCX, 6.4 MB)

Short Form Landscape Assessment Guidelines (DOCX, 1.5 MB)

Amend or remove

Owners or other parties who want to amend or remove a registration need to complete the application form:

Application to amend or remove an item on the Heritage Register (DOCX, 139.4 KB)


Registrations on the Victorian Heritage Register can be amended by:

  • changing the extent of registration including adding or removing land
  • changing the Statement of Significance or permit policy
  • removing or amending permit exemptions
  • removing a place or object from the Heritage Register.

Once a place or object has been added to the Victorian Heritage Register, owners can apply to have the extent of registration altered. Altering the extent might include increasing the amount of land that is included in the Register, or applying to have the amount of registered land reduced.

Owners can apply to have permit exemptions put in place identifying works which don’t need a permit under the Heritage Act 2017. Exemptions can save time and resources for both permit applicants and Heritage Victoria.


Applications to reduce the extent of registration or to remove a place or object from the Heritage Register are rarely approved.

You need to demonstrate that the place, or the extent of registration, doesn’t adequately satisfy the Heritage Council’s criteria.

Source: heritage.vic.gov.au

You may be surprised to note that the criterions are quite general. Heritage Registrations that remain intact and unchallenged are often based on the very unique Architecture that (a) demonstrates cultural history, (b) rare and endangered aspects of Victoria’s Cultural History, (c) the potential to reveal information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s History.


Read the Criterion carefully. By understanding the criterion it provides a very solid backing for supporting those buildings, locations or items challenged by Developers and others in VCAT.

The recent APM ‘Alphington Power Station’ is a good case in point. It simply did not meet the requirements of the criteria to register for Heritage Listing.

It can be seen that the process to gain listing on the heritage Register is an interpretation of the criteria stated:

“The Heritage Council of Victoria is a ten member independent statutory decision making body that makes decisions on heritage issues with Victoria. The council members are drawn from a wide range of professional disciplines and organisations, supported by a small secretariat. Separately, Heritage Victoria is a Victorian State Government agency and is part of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Its Executive Director is responsible to the aforementioned Department.”


Note, this is separate to the Heritage Council of Victoria, an independent statutory body established under the Heritage Act 2017. Confusing? A little.

The Heritage Council’s powers and responsibilities are set out in the said Heritage Act. The Council is in fact independent of Heritage Victoria and its Executive Director in its decision making and quasi-judicial roles.

The Heritage Council has real power when it chooses to apply it.

There have been confusing comments made over the last few months as to Government and its role in interpreting or enforcing Heritage Rulings. Hopefully this clarifies that role and gives insight into how the process works.

In many cases, the first the public knows of a Heritage registration is when it is challenged by a developer or organisation. Often when a project is contracted via a Tender process, the responsibility to adhere to such a Heritage responsibility becomes that of the Head Contractor, builder, engineer or developer – not the Governments. The Government must be seen to have carried out due process, provided full information and respected all Heritage Registrations in the preparation of the Tender documentation, Tender process and Tender acceptance.


It’s a fine balance between recognising frivolous applications for Heritage registration and ensuring genuine Heritage values are respected and adhered to.

Clarity will ensure not only a better future for Victorians, but real respect and funding for Heritage values and projects.

Ask a simple question. Who is challenging or has ignored a Heritage Registration?

  • A planner? Architect, builder, engineer or major contractor
  • At what stage of a project or a prospective project has this occurred?
  • Has the Government through either Heritage Victoria or the Planning Minister been made aware of the perceived challenge or transgression?
  • Has Local Government, State Government acknowledged the Heritage registration?

Pure Politics is useless. Politicians may stridently attack the Government of the day or the Opposition. But remember Heritage ‘Listing’ or Registration is in fact a process. Examine the process not the participants. Clarity will always trump emotion.

Til next week

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.


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