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Keynote Speakers


Ms Susan Macdonald, Bsc (Arch) B Arch, MA (Conservation Studies), RIBA, PIA, Head of Field Projects, Getty Conservation Institute

Susan Macdonald

Susan manages the Field projects department where she oversees some 20 international projects that aim to advance conservation practice across a variety of challenges. Susan has worked as a conservation architect in private practice and in the government sector in Australia and in London, including English Heritage and as a former Director of the NSW Heritage Office where she was involved in a wide range of conservation issues from urban planning, development, economics, policy and technical matters. Susan has as a particular interest in 20th century heritage conservation and has been involved in a number of world heritage nominations.

Presentation Abstract: Place + people = fabric: conserving fabric and sustaining values in the 21st century

Heritage places are testament to humankind’s creative responses to place, climate, social conditions and needs. Place, people and the physical fabric that results are therefore inextricably linked. Sustaining the multiple values inherent in our heritage places over the long-term relies not only on technical expertise but also on an understanding of the relationships between these values and how to sustain them. As improved understanding of the multiple values that contribute to cultural heritage significance has expanded, curiously and unfortunately there has been a decline in the knowledge, skills and support for conserving the physical fabric of places. This paper seeks to identify the issues affecting conservation practice, questions the implications for the current framework for heritage management and begins to suggest potential approaches to address these often, interrelated challenges. 

In many parts of the world government support for heritage conservation has decreased generally in the last decade or so, as pressure on the public purse intensifies, and securing the intervention needed to conserve fabric has become increasingly challenging. Weaker legislation, reduced authority for heritage agencies, less emphasis on standard setting and policy development and a reduction in the availability of advice from governments are taking their toll on the quality of conservation work. Reduced funding for physical works, the sell-off of the government estate and loss of know how on how to best care for these historic building types, reduced technical education and training for professionals and craftspeople and shifting patters of procurement are also contributing factors. All together these factors are eroding the significance of heritage places and severing the connections between place, fabric and people, which are often core to their values.

Therefore it is timely to reassess how in the 21st century we can sustain the necessary know how to secure good conservation outcomes. What are the potential implications of the current framework for heritage conservation that exists in many parts of the world today? In the current scenario, what is the role of the private and non-government sectors in setting and maintaining standards for work, ensuring we have well trained and experienced practitioners and are able to sustain the traditional craft skills and supplies of materials needed to adequately care for our heritage? Are there useful models that can be adapted to the specific local circumstances and that may have relevance in Australia? What opportunities are there for the sector to work better together to secure improved outcomes for the conservation of the fabric of places and sustain the link between people, fabric and place that is often critical to significance? By beginning to answer these questions the paper hopes to provoke more detailed discussion on the critical issues.


Mr Julian Smith, BA (Oberlin), MArch (MIT), CPP (Cornell), OAA, Executive Director, Willowbank, Canada; President, ICOMOS Canada

Julian Smith

Julian Smith is an architect, planner, and educator. He is Executive Director of Willowbank, an alternative non-profit educational centre in Canada that works at the boundary between heritage conservation, ecological awareness, and contemporary design and development. It teaches builders, designers and urbanists using a shared curriculum combining theory and practice. He is also principal of Julian Smith & Associates Architects, and has worked on culturally-significant sites in North America, Europe and Asia. He is President of ICOMOS Canada, and was one of the contributing authors for the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape.

Presentation Abstract: ‘Everyday Use’

Alice Walker grew up as the youngest of eight children in a sharecropper’s family in the American south. Her wonderful short story, Everyday Use, is about quilts, and about quilting, and about family, and about confronting change. 

The cultural heritage world is facing change – moving out of the comfortable confines of a self-contained field with its own rules and regulations.  The definition of fabric in the Burra Charter is being constantly challenged by new shades of interpretation.  Our field is becoming part of broader conversations, about sustainability and lifestyle and language and creativity.  Disciplinary boundaries are being broken and refashioned.  PTN, ICOMOS, IUCN, Habitat III, the Post-2015 Development Agenda – these are all interconnected.  It is wonderful, this slow opening up of conversations between previous solitudes. 

However, we must not lose sight of the ‘quilt’ – the making of the quilt, the caring for the quilt, the passing down of both the knowledge of quilt-making and the exquisite beauty of the patina of everyday use.  It is the fabric of the quilt that connects us to who we are.  Without it, we are at risk of being adrift in a broad sea of conversations without an anchor.

In Canada, Willowbank is one effort to provide such an anchor while encouraging the exploration.  We are an independent nonprofit institution, providing an alternative path to working in the cultural heritage field.  We use the same curriculum to train carpenters, stone masons, community activists, gardeners, urban planners,  architects, theorists.  Our faculty is aboriginal and non-aboriginal.  Our method of teaching is both apprenticeship and academic.  Why?  Because the slow process of the lime burn, the sweaty teamwork of timber framing, the intricate pinning of a damaged gravestone, the planting and harvesting of a community medicinal garden – these are as important to our students as designing the adaptive reuse of an abandoned factory, collecting cognitive maps in an at-risk neighbourhood, discussing the relationship between Nara and HUL.  It is a respect for cultural heritage that comes from an appreciation of its gritty day-to-day reality.  And that appreciation then connects us to the broader world.

We are all surveyors of the fabric, in our own ways.  Not perhaps in the sense of Sir Bernard Fielden at York Minster, but surveyors nonetheless, of our own quilts and tapestries.  And in ways that are physical as well as intellectual, sensual as well as rational.  Ours is not a field of theory, but of theory and practice inextricably intertwined.  That is the joy of it, and of this conference.


Dr Neale Draper, BA Hons, MA, PhD, CEO and Principal Heritage Consultant, Australian Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (ACHM)

Neale Draper

Associate Professor Neale Draper is the CEO of Australian Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (ACHM). He has more than 30 years of experience in cultural heritage management and as a researcher, academic, and expert witness/reporter in the fields of Anthropology and archaeology, particularly with Australian Aboriginal communities.

Neale is an International Member of ICOMOS and a member of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committees on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM) and Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL), and the Australia ICOMOS National Scientific Committees for Cultural Landscapes and Cultural Routes (NSC-CLCR) and Intangible Cultural Heritage (NSC-ICH).

Neale is an Associate Professor in the School of Humanities (Department of Archaeology at Flinders University in Adelaide. He is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Lake Victoria Advisory Committee for the Murray Darling Basin Authority, and represents ACHM on several resources industry forums.

Presentation Abstract: Indigenous cultural heritage management in Australia – sustaining the cultural fabric of living peoples and landscapes

The key themes of the Australian ICOMOS FABRIC 2015 conference: social fabric, fabric and place, and conserving fabric, with their associated questions and issues, are considered by a non-indigenous heritage consultant who works primarily with Aboriginal people on cultural heritage assessment and management projects and native title research. This has been a rapidly-evolving field of professional practice for the last 30 years, most recently adapting to the emergence of many regional Aboriginal corporations, cultural institutions and businesses concerned with cultural heritage and land and natural resource management, with continuity of cultural traditions and values, and with community education – largely as a result of a substantial increase in native title determinations and associated Indigenous Land use agreements.

Australia’s recent mining, energy and infrastructure boom period provided both challenges and economic benefits for many Aboriginal communities, and also provided a relatively short-lived career path for hundreds of heritage professionals in archaeology, anthropology, and other fields. In the aftermath of the boom a crisis has arisen in finding the economic resources for Aboriginal heritage protection and recognition both for communities and for support services from heritage professional. There have also been some political initiatives to alter fundamentally the legislative protections for Aboriginal heritage in relation to development and mining approvals. Nonetheless, the process of Aboriginal traditional owners and native title holders across the country progressively taking charge of the management of their cultural heritage and relationships with the wider community and Government is an evolutionary change that continues to gather pace.

From this perspective, each of the FABRIC themes is examined in turn, using examples from current and recent heritage consulting projects from the Pilbara and Western Australian Goldfields, to regional South Australia and Adelaide itself. There are some new directions and priorities emerging from the interaction of Aboriginal people and other stakeholders and there are challenges both old and new – but most of all, there is ample evidence of a strong, living fabric of Aboriginal cultural identity, traditions and language continuing to imbue the Australian landscape and waters with cultural meaning and identity. Aboriginal communities are highly proactive in the maintenance and promotion of their cultural heritage throughout Australia, not just in the remote outback, which in turn is changing the roles of heritage practitioners who assist and interact with Aboriginal communities and cultural heritage issues.