ICOMOS GA2023 Video Series

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Australia to host major global cultural heritage event

The Australian Government and NSW Government joined Australia ICOMOS today in announcing that Sydney will host heritage experts from around the world in 2023, at the next global General Assembly of the influential International Council on Monuments and Sites (‘ICOMOS’).

ICOMOS has more than 10,000 members globally – architects, historians, planners, archaeologists and other specialists – and officially advises the World Heritage Committee and national governments about heritage issues.

Australian Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, welcomed the announcement that Australia would host the ICOMOS General Assembly and related Scientific Symposium:

Australia is a global leader in heritage conservation, and our hosting the General Assembly aligns closely with our commitment to the management of 20 World Heritage properties – with more nominations on the way. As an active member of the World Heritage Committee, and one of the first nations to adopt the World Heritage Convention, we are delighted to partner with the NSW Government and ICOMOS to bring this prestigious global gathering to Sydney”, she said.

Read the full statement

Final ICOMOS GA2020 Statement

Australia ICOMOS is delighted that the ICOMOS Board has graciously determined that the 21st triennial General Assembly and Scientific Symposium of ICOMOS will be hosted by Australia ICOMOS in Sydney in September 2023.

Further information about ‘GA2023’ will be made available in due course, once the situation regarding COVID-19 and implications for global travel and economic recovery have become more apparent, and preliminary plans are in place.

In the meantime, the GA2020 registration process has been suspended, and the GA2020 website will not be updated further. Registered delegates, those who have submitted abstracts and other interested parties will be contacted directly, as information about options and arrangements for the transition to 2023 are determined.

Australia ICOMOS will continue to place the health and safety of GA2020 delegates, ICOMOS members, and event and venue staff at the forefront of our decision making.

Australia ICOMOS will host an online ‘marker’ event in October 2020 to acknowledge the enormous support and goodwill shown towards planning GA2020.

Australia ICOMOS remains committed to supporting and enriching the global work of ICOMOS and looks forward to welcoming delegates to Sydney for GA2023 in September 2023!

GA2020 in the making at Marrakech - 4 November 2019

More than 40 Ambassadors have committed to supporting the ICOMOS 2020 General Assembly and Scientific Symposium (GA2020), following a successful promotion at the 2019 annual General Assembly in Marrakech.

These Ambassadors will promote GA2020 among their networks and become one of the faces of the General Assembly. The new recruits bring the Ambassador total to more than 100.

GA2020 representatives have now returned from the 2019 Assembly, which took place at the World Heritage-listed City of Marrakech from 12-18 October. The Medina of the ancient city, which was founded in 1070-72, provided a profound historic backdrop to the meeting, with significant historic sites such as the Koutoubiya Mosque, Bandiâ Palace and Saadian Tombs as well as the contemporary Jardin Marjorelle.

GA2020 Convenor, Professor Richard Mackay said: “The annual ICOMOS General Assembly in Marrakech provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase the cultural heritage and large array of events that delegates will enjoy in Sydney during October 2020.

“Being at the 2019 event allowed us to meet key ICOMOS personnel and to observe ICOMOS meetings, procedures and routines first-hand.

“The Ambassador program was particularly successful, with more than 40 Ambassadors recruited and many ICOMOS members added to the GA2020 database.”

The Scientific Symposium for the 2019 General Assembly, comprising 24 sessions with almost 70 presentations, considered the theme Rural Heritage and explored links between rural heritage and water, climate change, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and more.

Dr Steve Brown, GA2020 Scientific Symposium Co-Chair, said many of the topics would be further developed and explored at GA2020 under the theme of Shared cultures – Shared heritage – Shared responsibility.

“The ICOMOS 2019 Scientific Symposium in Marrakech has laid down a groundwork on heritage issues that require the delivery of measurable actions at GA2020,” he said.

“The contributions of heritage in relation to climate change, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Indigenous heritage, culture-nature integration, and marginalised groups emerged as key matters of concern for the GA2020.”

Joining Richard Mackay and Steve Brown at the Marrakech Assembly were GA2020 committee members Ian Travers and Peter Phillips (GA2020 Organising Committee); Ian Kelly (GA2020 Executive Committee); Mikel Landa, Nupur Prothi, and Teresa Patricio (GA2020 Scientific Committee Members); as well as Scientific Symposium Theme Co-chairs Diane Menzies (Indigenous Heritage), Tokie Laotan-Brown (Marginalised Heritages), and Susan McIntyre Tamwoy (Culture-Nature Journey).

Registrations for GA2020 are now open! Click here to secure your early bird discount by registering today.

GA2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 Statement 3

Australia ICOMOS and the GA2020 team continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and extend their best wishes to ICOMOS members, their families and to the global cultural heritage community.

Australia ICOMOS is regrettably not able to host the ICOMOS General Assembly in Sydney in October 2020.

The Australia ICOMOS Executive Committee has reluctantly reached this decision in view of current restrictions and uncertainties about when social and economic life and international travel will return to normal in Australia and worldwide.

Australia ICOMOS will host a ‘marker’ event in October 2020 to acknowledge the enormous support and goodwill shown towards planning GA2020. The form of this event (which may occur online) is yet to be determined.

Australia ICOMOS is currently considering whether it can offer to host the General Assembly in 2023. This is a complex exercise and a final decision will be made and announced during May 2020.

In the meantime, the GA2020 registration process has been suspended, interested parties are being advised, and preparatory activities for 2020 have now ceased.

Australia ICOMOS acknowledges the difficulties that ICOMOS faces in holding its required statutory meetings in 2020, and also that these difficulties will need to be resolved at the International level.

Australia ICOMOS will continue to place the health and safety of delegates and ICOMOS and venue staff at the forefront of our decision making. We will continue to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation and to comply with the requirements of the Australian Government.

Australia ICOMOS remains committed to supporting and enriching the global work of ICOMOS.

Heritage experts launch ICOMOS GA2020 - 25 February 2019

Australia’s key heritage industry representatives have gathered to launch the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) 2020 General Assembly and Scientific Symposium.

Representatives from government and heritage organisations met at Sydney Living Museums’ historic Sydney Mint on Monday 25 February evening to mark the forthcoming major event.

ICOMOS GA2020 will take place 1-11 October 2020 at the International Convention Centre Sydney and is expected to attract more than 1,200 industry professionals from around the world. They will participate in four days of sessions and presentations, as well as visits to significant cultural heritage sites such as Sydney Opera House and Greater Blue Mountains, along with other social events and workshops.
Australia ICOMOS President Ian Travers kicked off the ICOMOS GA2020 launch with Acknowledgement of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which GA2020 will be held.

ICOMOS GA2020 Convenor Richard Mackay said: “This Conference will provide a valuable opportunity for Australia to learn from the world’s best cultural heritage practitioners and to share and showcase our shared culture, amazing cultural places and outstanding heritage conservation achievements. We are grateful for the support of the government and other strategic partners as well as our corporate patrons.”

Prof Mackay also thanked the government and strategic partners for ICOMOS GA2020 including Luna Park, as the venue for the Assembly’s large social function, the Sydney Federation Trust, which will welcome the GA2020 ‘Youth Forum’ on Cockatoo Island, and Qantas, which is offering special incentives for both domestic and international attendees.

Naseema Sparks, Chair Sydney Living Museums, pointed out the host venue Sydney Mint was a living example of the positive outcomes of heritage conservation, based on the principles of Australia ICOMOS’ Burra Charter.

David Williams, Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy, also addressed the gathering, recognising Australia’s global reputation for outstanding cultural heritage conservation and management.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is supporting ICOMOS GA 2020, as is the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The ICOMOS General Assembly also formally acknowledges the valued support of founding Opal Patrons’ Extent Heritage, GML Heritage and Lovell Chen and founding South Sea Pearl Patrons; NBRS Architecture and International Conservation Services.

Melbourne’s Federation Square, Victorian State Heritage Site - 12 September 2019

After a year-long process, Melbourne’s Federation Square has been included in the Victorian State Heritage Register. We speak to Felicity Watson, Advocacy Manager for National Trust, on what it means for this important heritage and cultural site.

Q: What is an interesting heritage fact about Federation Square people might not know?
Federation Square was conceived as a monument to the centenary of the federation of the Australian states. By 2003, a year after its opening, it had become the most awarded project in the history of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Victoria. The square is paved with approximately half a million cobblestones made of Kimberley sandstone from Mt Jowlaenga in Western Australia.

Q: How important is Federation Square to Melbourne and even Victoria?
Federation Square is Victoria’s premier civic and cultural space, representing the culmination of Melbourne’s century-long search for a grand public square. The space is also aesthetically and architecturally significant, with a high degree of technical achievement demonstrated in its construction. It is built on a deck covering a working railway line, and is the largest expanse of railway decking built in Australia. Its distinctive architectural language utilises non-orthogonal forms and fractal geometries. The use of CAD and 3D modelling in its design and construction were innovative for its time.

Q: Briefly explain the process of having Federation Square added to the Victorian Heritage Register?
The National Trust began assessing Federation Square’s heritage value in light of threats posed by a major transport project, and the proposed demolition of one of the buildings. We nominated it to the Victorian Heritage Register in mid-2018, following more than 12 months of consultation with heritage and architectural experts, including the National Trust’s expert advisory committees.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in this process?
One of the biggest challenges we have encountered is broadening the public’s conceptions of heritage to include more recently constructed buildings, and places of cultural and social value. While it is unusual for a place so “young” to be considered for its heritage values, the National Trust believes that Federation Square is significant as a monumental example of twenty-first century architecture, which has developed a high level of cultural significance since it opened in 2002.

Q: What do you hope comes from this recognition?
Federation Square’s heritage registration provides a foundation for its architectural and cultural values to be considered as part of any future development plans. Importantly, the heritage process also requires the public to be consulted as part of any future change. The listing has already led to a major review into Federation Square’s governance and operations, which we hope will enhance its role as Melbourne’s premier civic and cultural space. 

Q: What site or place would you like added to the Heritage Register next?
The National Trust’s most recent nomination to the state heritage register is Footscray Psychiatric Centre. A significant example of Brutalist architecture in Melbourne, it has historical significance as an example of a facility that emerged from changes in the understanding and treatment of mental illness in the late-twentieth century. The mission of the National Trust is to recognise, protect and celebrate historic buildings that reflect the complexity of our history and community, and we believe this building tells an important story about the history of psychiatric treatment in the state.

Felicity Watson is a member of the Marketing Sub Committee for ICOMOS GA2020 where she manages the social media activity.

World Heritage recognition for Budj Bim: An interview with Chris Johnston, part of the team who made it happen - 3 October 2019

World Heritage recognition for Budj Bim

Q: How long have you been working to make Budj Bim a Heritage-Listed site?
For me, the work started in the early 1990s. Then I was first working with the Gunditjmara community on a management plan for properties that were being purchased by the Victorian government for Gunditjmara. Some properties were at the heart of Budj Bim. What was amazing was back then before any management plans were in place, the Elders had an aspiration for world heritage. They saw and recognised the importance of this place even before the archaeological data was in. The idea of national importance and world heritage coming really strongly from community. So it has been a massive 30-year journey for them.

Q: And how did that process unfold?
Budj Bim had been identified as a special place with archaeological recording of the aquaculture systems (then called fish/ eel traps) and recording stone house sites since the 1970s. Colonial explorers and settlers had documented some of these features, but I don’t think anyone outside the Gunditjmara community or any archaeologists knew of their outstanding international significance until detailed studies began to be carried out.

Q: What learnings has it led to?
For many years it has been recognised that Aboriginal people had Country, or defined areas of land, that they occupied and used. They certainly moved around landscape using different resources within their Country, and shared bounties with others too. But one of the things this research and recognition has done is shifted our view about whether Aboriginal people actively managed the landscape. The concept of aquaculture – not just harvesting – shifts our understanding towards active land and water and resource management. Likewise the stone houses indicate people were living in this landscape pretty continuously; they created an enormous food resource through the aquaculture system.

Q: Explain the significance of listing Budj Bim as a World Heritage property?
It’s enormously significant both because of the significance of the site and the recognition it has been awarded, but also because it will help shift many people’s views about Aboriginal people and how they managed country. To me it almost represents part of a bigger shift that’s happening in Australia right now. I think we are starting to value our cultural heritage much more and see it in the landscape much more than we have in the past where we were in denial. I think something has shifted in the Australian psyche or is shifting – that it’s OK to recognise that we – non-Indigenous people – are not going to lose everything by recognising First Nation people: instead we will gain rather than lose.

Q: What do you hope will come out of this?
I hope for Aboriginal cultural heritage that people stop being fearful of having Aboriginal heritage on their own property, that in fact they see it as something to celebrate and to protect. And in celebrating, that they don’t skew those stories but engage Aboriginal people and community organisations to be the story tellers. It is important that Aboriginal communities, the people who own this intellectual property, have the opportunity to gain economically as well as culturally from the recognition from Aboriginal heritage places.

Q: How do you think this World Heritage listing of Budj Bim – and the consequent shift in value of cultural heritage – will affect future developments such as Adani?
We need to take into account the things we value when we make decisions on developments. The hard decisions are often about change; whether it’s Adani or on a much smaller scale like subdividing land for housing. At any level, if we don’t know what the heritage is then we’re not able to make a soundly-based decision. If we know what the heritage is, we’re in a better position to consider the values. We also need to consider the values of the broader community of an area; not just Traditional Owners, although they’re of critical importance of course. For any development, we need to be asking what are the things people value about that township or that rural landscape or that place, and is it possible to look after those heritage values in the change that’s proposed? They’re big questions and we don’t ask them enough. Melbourne’s Federation Square and the proposal to allow an Apple store there without considering heritage values and community attachment – thankfully now rejected – is a classic example.

Q: What will be your next project or move?
I’m very interested in working with Aboriginal communities on cultural values. I’ve been working with Traditional Owner groups and the City of Melbourne to find out and document places of importance for Aboriginal people for contemporary reasons: stories that come from post-colonial period through to today, rather than deep time stories. Again, this is missing in our understanding of the cultural landscape. For example, what does Parliament House mean to Aboriginal people? Parliament Hill was a traditional ceremonial place associated with Kulin Nation governance, and there have been many key legislative moments that make it really important, but we don’t talk about these. Aboriginal people are missing in action in our appreciation of our city. I’m interested in how we bring those perspectives on our history into our understanding today.

Chris JohnstonChris Johnston is Heritage Specialist at Context which is part of GML group. GML is a sponsor for GA2020. Chris is also a member of the International Committee on Intangible Heritage and co-convenes the Australia ICOMOS National Scientific Committee on intangible cultural heritage.

Logo Narrative


The GA2020 logo shows a stylised Xanthorrhoea (‘black boy’) plant, in the shape of Sydney Opera House. The design was conceived by Blak Douglas (aka Adam Hill), a Sydney-based Aboriginal artist, and developed collaboratively with Greg Hosking from Monotron Creative. It is fitting that the design concept arises from collaboration with an Indigenous artist, given the GA2020 theme of ‘shared culture–shared heritage–shared responsibility’, as the design process itself has been a ‘shared’ task; both practically and culturally. The iconography picks up the ‘nature–culture journey’, which is a major GA2020 program element, reflecting the importance of recognising that even natural heritage places have Traditional Owners and cultural values. The recognisable shape of the Sydney Opera House, attests to more-recent cultural values, but is at the same time distinctively different from more usual Sydney Opera House iconography. The local name for the Xanthorrhoea is ‘Gadi’; reflected in the name of the ‘Gadigal’ people of the Eora Nation, the Traditional Owners of the land on which GA2020 will be held. The image of the Sydney Opera House is used under licence from the Sydney Opera House Trust.