Intangible Heritage

The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Place

Premiership Room A, Melbourne Cricket Ground 06/10/2016 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

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Susan McIntyre-Tamwoy
Katie O’Rourke
Denis Gojak
Mick Harding
Meredith Walker

The context and challenges of developing an Australia ICOMOS, Burra Charter perspective on Intangible Cultural Heritage – a lively, issues-based discussion.

The AICOMOS National Scientific Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage has been developing resources to assist heritage professional in considering Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), and are exploring how intangible heritage aspects of place – including human activities and knowledge – are identified, assessed and protected for the benefit of the community.  The session will present, from a variety of perspectives, the challenges in reaching a Burra Charter, place-based approach to ICH.

Session Structure: 4 speakers (15 mins each) followed by a Q&A discussion panel of the speakers and Kellie Clayton, Heritage Registrar, Aboriginal Victoria, Department of Premier and Cabinet, plus a chair/moderator (30 mins).


Dr Susan McIntyre-Tamwoy (President ICOMOS International Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Associate Director, Extent Heritage (International Projects and Research), Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University) and Katie O’Rourke (Katie O’Rourke Consulting, Cairns): Under the Bauhinia tree: Lessons from South East Asia on ICH and the intersection between people place and practice

The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was conceived as a harmonizing tool that could in part work to mitigate the negative impacts of globalisation while creating opportunities for renewed dialogue amongst communities within and across national borders and thereby maintain the world’s cultural diversity.  Australia, like most of the major western nations, is not a signatory to this convention.  However practitioners within Australia have for some years been incorporating a consideration of intangible values into understandings of heritage places in Australia.

Meanwhile, many of our neighbours in Southeast Asia have enthusiastically embraced the Convention and embarked on a range of activities from research and documentation through to the enactment of legislation. The adoption in 2015 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which specifically reference cultural heritage for the first time will potentially provide an added impetus for consideration of cultural heritage in Southeast Asia and the Pacific although the impact of this has for the most part yet to filter down into development planning.

While there are many similarities in the approaches of nations across Southeast Asia there are some interesting differences.  In some cases ICH and TCH have developed in to separate silos and in others they are more entwined.  This paper will report on recent research in Southeast Asia, look at some initiatives in Australia and consider some of the lessons that we can learn from our neighbours to the north.

Denis Gojak (Senior Heritage Specialist Roads and Maritime Authority, NSW; PhD candidate, University of Sydney): Tangible roads and intangible journeys – a heritage user’s perspective

The challenge for any infrastructure organisation is to conserve heritage values that are not tangible or self-evidently relevant to itself.  Within Roads and Maritime we have developed practical procedural guidelines helping project managers to identify potential heritage values early on, and to consider how these might represent value-adding opportunities rather than constraints.

Mick Harding (a Taungurung man, Board Member of Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and past Chairperson, Chair Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council): Intangible Cultural Heritage from a Traditional Owner’s perspective

My paper will demonstrate how the words tangible and intangible have disconnect for my culture.

They are non-indigenous concepts.

They are also articulated in a foreign concept of understanding of the world we live in.

I will also write and explain the concepts of our culture, and articulate it in my language (Taungwurrung).

Meredith Walker (heritage consultant, Convenor of the NSC-ICH Working Group on Intangible Cultural Heritage, former chair of Australia ICOMOS and is a member of the ICOMOS ISC for Theory and Philosophy of Conservation and Restoration, honorary life member Australia ICOMOS): UNESCO and Us: Introducing the Burra Charter Practice Note – Intangible Cultural Heritage and Place

The UNESCO Declaration for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage has prompted a greater awareness of the contribution which human activities make to the significance of place.  The preparation of a Burra Charter Practice Note was high on the agenda of the NSC-ICH committee when it was launched in late 2014.  A working group was established, a workshop at Port Fairy in 2015 was followed by the preparation of several drafts, each with a different approach.  The draft now available for comment defines ICH in the context of the Burra Charter (adapting the approach in the UNESCO Declaration) and also provides guidance about ICH and place, its characteristics, and issues for practice.