Photo by alicia3690 / Pixabay
The festival is a celebration of Australia, past and present.

History is nothing more than information about the past. Heritage, on the other hand, is everything that we have inherited from previous generations. Therefore, heritage is all our cultural traditions, our communities, our music, our language as well as the architecture in our towns and cities, the statues and monuments and on and on. Our heritage is everything from the past worth saving for the future. It’s our national identity, quite literally, everything that makes us who we are. So, you know, it’s significant.

The Australian Heritage Festival is a month-long celebration thrown every year by the National Trust to celebrate all the previously mentioned. National Heritage sites host events across the country, so wherever you are, from the big cities down to small regional communities, there’ll be something happening in your neighbourhood. The purpose of the festival is to explore what matters in Australian culture, bring to life the distinctive stories of Australia’s diverse communities and help people learn about their past in an enjoyable and interactive way.

What’s happening this year?

This year, it takes place between the 18th of April and the 19th of May, with events that cater to all ages and interests. Some of the events include simple walking tours through buildings or areas of historical interest like the gunpowder tour at the Black Powder Mill in Cairnlea, Victoria, which takes you through a slice of Australian military history. Other events will be more family-orientated, with family fun days happening in several locations like Mulberry Hill, Victoria, at the homestead of famous novelist Joan Lindsay and artist Daryl Lindsay.

The theme this year is ‘Connecting People, Places and Past’, and the thousands of events taking place during the festival stretch across the breadth of Australian history, from the famous explorer Thomas Mitchell to the AFL footie player Tom Mitchell, who is the odds-on favourite to win the Brownlow Medal this year. There will be art exhibitions, workshops, music, dancing, nature explorations, ghost tours of famous haunted houses and old asylums and plenty of fascinating talks and lectures.

And this is no niche event for stuffy old history buffs. In 2018, the events and exhibitions put on by the National Trust attracted over 441,000 Australians and international visitors. That’s close to half a million people who enjoyed a day out at one event or another and came away with a new appreciation of Australian heritage.

The festival seeks to connect people with their past and cultural heritage.
The festival seeks to connect people with their past and cultural heritage.

Photo by gokuyourself / Pixabay

Events and Highlights

So, to whet your appetite here’s a quick look at some of the highlight events happening this year. Don’t forget to check out the National Trust website for more information on events near you.

  • Dandenong Ranges Open Studios – Belgrave, VictoriaThis large exhibition takes place at the Sherbrooke Art Gallery with 36 art studios, five artist collections and four emerging artists all participating. There’s no entry fee, and you can participate in one of the workshops on offer or watch one of the seasoned artists give a demonstration of their skills.
  • Colonial Artillery Gun Firing Demonstrations – Mount Clarence, WABring some earplugs to the Princess Royal Fortress because this one is loud. The demonstration sees the firing of colonial 1874 artillery guns as well as tours of the fortress.
  • Aboriginal Engravings Sites Tour – Ku-Ring-Gai-Chase, NSWThis one will be a guided walk through Ku-ring-gai-chase National Park where you can inspect early aboriginal engravings, learn a bit about aboriginal history and culture and hear as some of their stories.
  • Gold Rush: 20 Objects, 20 Stories – East Melbourne, VictoriaHosted at the Old Treasury Building, this event explores the turbulent history of Victoria’s 1850’s gold rush through some preserved objects from the time. From diary entries of the miners to a replica of the largest gold nugget in the world at the time, all the items here tell a story of a slice of Australian history.
  • National Archaeology Week 2019This week celebrates Australia’s archaeological history, including Aboriginal history. You’ll be able to meet real archaeologists, participate in archaeological digs and attend special lectures and workshops. From the 19th to 25th May, there will be a series of fascinating archaeology-themed events that explore 65,000 years of Australian history.
  • Charters Towers Ghost Tours – Charters Towers City, QLDTake a tour through Charters Towers and hear local legends and stories of tragedy, crime and This one will be a 90-minute walking tour through streets filled with heritage and history. It’s suitable for all ages.
Australia has thousands of beautiful heritage sites, each with a rich history.
Australia has thousands of beautiful heritage sites, each with a rich history.

Photo by bangkokflame / Pixabay

Why Heritage is Important

In the age of devices and screens and distraction, it’s easy to forget about the rich heritage that surrounds us every day. However, taking some time to remember, to learn about your history and heritage and to contribute to it can be hugely important. A lot of the National Heritage Sites across the country play a vital role in their local communities, whether that means improving the quality of life for local residents or boosting the local economy by providing jobs and attracting visitors. Some sites are even places where people can gather, such as parks, halls or churches. Other sites are privately owned but contribute to the streetscape all the same. These places help define our identity, both locally and nationally. Therefore, engaging with them can help an individual person feel connected to their cultural heritage and provide a sense of community and belonging that you can’t find on social media. Heritage festivals like the one thrown by the National Trust provide a reason to get offline and get engaged with the local environment. The events taking place provide an excuse to visit somewhere you might never have visited, experience something new and foster a sense of belonging within your community or at least an appreciation for a different community.

So, if you’re interested in the shared history and heritage of Australia, whether you’re a proud local or an international visitor, make sure you don’t miss out. Get involved and check out the National Trust website for more events near you. Check out an event near you where you can have a nice day out and learn a little bit about Australia’s rich heritage to boot.