National Heritage List inscription date 7 November 2008
The spectacular and distinctive Australian Alps extend over 1.6 million hectares of public land contained in eleven national parks and nature reserves across Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Unique natural environment
The high altitude peaks and plateaus, glacial lakes and alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems of the Australian Alps are rare in our mostly flat, dry and hot continent (which has an average elevation of only 330 metres above sea level).
The place contains a wide range of mountain environments and plant communities, from tall, wet, fern-filled forests to snowgum woodlands and open expanses of alpine meadows, dotted in summer and autumn with colourful wildflowers. It also contains landforms created by glaciers, remarkable fish fossils and unique cold climate adapted plants and animals.
Containing the highest peaks in mainland Australia, the alps are of outstanding landscape value and are important in the pattern of Australia's natural history. The Kosciuszko Plateau includes the most striking examples on the Australian mainland of landforms created by glaciers. The remarkable Mt Howitt fish fossils demonstrate all life stages from larvae to mature fish.
The alps are also home to unique cold climate adapted plants and animals—from alpine daisies to snow gums, and from mountain pygmy possums to migratory Bogong moths.
Due to their high peaks and seasonal snow, the Australian Alps strongly influence the hydrology of eastern Australia. The alps contribute significant quantities of snow melt to the river systems of eastern Australia, and the water retention properties of the bog and fen communities in the area play an integral role in regulating water flow to river systems. Past Aboriginal social gatherings based on moth feasting were unique to the alps. The adult insect—the Bogong moth—was the basis for large-scale annual gatherings of different Aboriginal groups for ceremonies.
Longstanding post-European settlement interaction
The alps have a strong association with Australia's pioneering history, while the snowfields and national parks have long been popular recreation areas. Huts, stock yards and stock routes reflect over 150 years of summer grazing on the alpine high plains, which began in the 1830s.
The distinctive way of life associated with that past grazing activity is significant to our pastoral and pioneering history. Linked to this is Banjo Paterson's poem The Man from Snowy River, an epic legend of horsemanship.
The alps are the major area in Australia for broad-scale snow recreation. Snow sports began in the 1860s and activities expanded during the 20th century. With significant natural catchments, the alps have contributed to the nation's social and economic development through the use of alpine waters for irrigation, to generate electricity and as a partial source for domestic water supplies for Melbourne and Canberra.
There is also a long history of scientific research and endeavour in the parks. In the mid-1800s Baron Ferdinand von Mueller gathered extensive botanical alpine collections and Alfred William Howitt documented the area's geology, botany and Aboriginal societies. The Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station played a major role in the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.
The alps are a powerful, spectacular and distinctive landscape and are highly valued by the Australian community for their remoteness and natural beauty. The mountain vistas, including distinctive range-upon-range panoramas, snow covered crests, slopes and valleys, alpine streams and rivers, natural and artificial lakes, snow-clad eucalypts, high plain grasslands, summer alpine wildflowers, forests and natural sounds all evoke strong emotions among Australians.
Snow-covered eucalypts, huts in mountain settings and mountain landscapes are distinctive Australian images captured by numerous artists and photographers. The mountain landscapes have inspired poets, writers, musicians and film makers.
The parks and reserves that comprise the place are:
Australian Capital Territory
- Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
- Namadgi National Park
New South Wales
- Bimberi Nature Reserve
- Brindabella National Park
- Kosciuszko National Park
- Scabby Range Nature Reserve
- Alpine National Park
- Avon Wilderness
- Baw Baw National Park
- Mt Buffalo National Park
- Snowy River National Park