National Trust of Australia (Tasmania)

Susan Fereday, 'Clarendon Van Diemens Land', c 1850 later a National Trust property (ALMFA, SLT)

The National Trust of Australia (Tasmania) was founded in 1960 by a small group of Launceston people, at a time when interest and concern about the preservation of Australia's built heritage was just beginning to emerge from a dark post-war period of destruction and desecration. The National Trust is a body of dedicated members who volunteer to work towards implementing its ideals, which are: promoting the preservation for public benefit of places and objects of beauty, or those with historical, scientific, artistic or architectural interest; encouraging public awareness of, interest in, and respect for those places and objects; and promoting public enjoyment of them.

The impetus to form the National Trust in Tasmania came when a handsome Georgian house in Franklin Village, known as The Hollies, was offered for sale. Concern for its preservation led to a group of people forming the Tasmanian National Trust. The model for its constitution came from the Victorian National Trust, founded 1956, which in turn came from the English National Trust.

The Hollies was restored and in 1961 opened as Franklin House. Rapid acquisition of other properties followed, among them the Grange, Campbell Town in 1963; Home Hill, Devonport in 1982; the Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site, Hobart in 1985; and Oak Lodge, Richmond in 1998. The Trust soon assumed the structure it has today, with three regional committees and a council of representatives from these committees. Stemming from the regional committees are house committees, sub-committees and district groups. Runnymede in Hobart was acquired by the state government and leased to the Trust soon after Franklin House. Clarendon was gifted to the Trust in 1962. Other properties followed. Some have become house museums or historic sites, and others have been restored and sold, or used for other purposes.

Initially the Trust's concern was for the natural environment as well as built heritage, but as other environment-oriented organisations came into being the Trust concentrated its efforts on material culture. In its earlier years the Trust's interest was single-minded. It was concerned only with the preservation of grander Georgian residences, but as time has gone by attitudes have changed. This has led to the advocating of the conservation of humbler historically significant dwellings, buildings of architectural significance, domestic and rural outbuildings, historic villages and bridges, significant trees and industrial heritage.

An important accomplishment of the National Trust has been to create public awareness of the value of built heritage, and to list an ever-widening range of early and more recent constructions deemed worth preserving, regardless of the socio-economic strata they represent. The classification programme, and competitions and awards for exemplary restoration efforts, have had a considerable impact on the dramatic change of public attitude regarding the beauty and value of old buildings, and the restoration and preservation of historic streetscapes. In this quest there have been losses, but these are more than balanced by successes. (See also Heritage Conservation.)

Further reading: T Jetson, In trust for the nation, Launceston, 2000.

Peter Mercer