Are you familiar with the tv program “Grand Designs” in which people unaccountably decide to build houses accompanied by Kevin McCloud prophesying disaster at every turn? Always interesting though because of the great range of projects. I find especially interesting those that involve “restoring” or “converting” some old, often very old (this being Britain), building.
On the evidence of this show heritage/local council authorities in Britain seem to have wildly different ideas about how to keep historic buildings in the landscape. Some are allowed to rot and be vandalised with no effort at protection, in others owners are prevented from doing minimal structural work to stop them falling down, others are forced to do silly things with roofing or cladding, others can essentially demolish a building and then rebuild it differently in the name of “preservation”.
There is probably a similar mish-mash across Australia, based on my observations. Is the reason a lack of public interest in preserving our history? A lack of funding for government heritage departments? A piecemeal approach between and within local councils? A general local government philosophy that values development over conservation? A resistance by individual property owners to valuing the old over the new?
Probably all of the above. But I reckon the British people are going to wake up one day and say “what happened to our local histories?” (the big stuff like castles is safe). I think in Australia we might as a country start to take stock of what we have in the way of historic buildings, and develop a plan for the survival of all of the most historically important ones (as well as Aboriginal sites which need their own approach).
Otherwise we too will wake up and find the last old farmhouse, or pub, or shearing shed, has blown down in a storm, and can’t be restored. Nor can we restore the memories, the sense of earlier times, the lives of our ancestors, that those buildings once represented.
Lost is lost and gone is gone forever.