Papua New Guinea and World Heritage

Mackay Strategic has been providing advice to the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority in PNG about possible future nominations to the World Heritage List.

PNG is a signatory to the World Heritage Convention and the Government of Australia has been providing support to PNG in fulfilment of its obligations, particularly through the Kokoda Initiative.

Richard Mackay at Kokoda December 2014During meetings and workshops and in both Cairns and Port Moresby, Richard Mackay (Mackay Strategic) and Peter Hitchcock provided advice about a possible approach to future World Heritage nominations. Richard’s contribution was focused on the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges, following a ‘roadmap’ report prepared by GML Heritage in 2015. Peter provided a briefing on places which have been identified, assessed and are considered to meet the relevant criteria for Outstanding Universal Value.

Participants included representatives from the Australian and PNG Government, representing different agencies and the PNG World Heritage Committee.

Discussions were focused on requirements for World Heritage nomination, the selection of potential sites, the need to establish a coordinated program and the importance of protection and management, as well as integrity and authenticity to establishing and maintaining Outstanding Universal Value.

Photo: courtesy GML Heritage Pty Ltd

Blue Mountains – Values for a New Generation

NSW Minister for the Environment, the Hon Mark Speakman, recently launched a new publication about the amazing natural and cultural values of the Greater Blue Mountains.

The Greater Blue Mountains was originally nominated to the World Heritage List for both natural and cultural values, but was only inscribed for natural values related to Eucalyptus plant communities and rare species. The area is included on Australia’s National Heritage List for the same reasons.

Over the last 15 years understanding of the many values of the Greater Blue Mountains has grown, ranging between extraordinary geology to amazing galleries of rock art and contemporary Indigenous culture. It is fitting that these and other values are now formally recognised, both nationally and internationally.

The Australian Heritage Council is re-assessing the Greater Blue Mountains for these additional values. The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Advisory Committee has shared the expertise and experience of its members across a range of disciplines to assist with this re-assessment. More than a year ago, current and former members of the Advisory Committee prepared a series of expert papers about this extraordinary place.

The Advisory Committee has now published this information so that it can be readily accessible to students, managers, researchers, and anyone else who is interested in the Greater Blue Mountains.

Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area: Values for a New Generation is available in both printed form and online here.

The book presents engaging and informative papers on geodiversity, contemporary Aboriginal culture, epic history, the interaction between nature and culture and, of course sublime panoramas and  scenic grandeur.

Richard Mackay introducing Minister Speakman

Richard Mackay introducing Minister Speakman

Richard Mackay introduced the Minister at the launch at Govetts Leap on 28 November.  As well as launching the book, the Minister also paid tribute to Richard’s achievements as Chair of the Advisory Committee:

I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Prof Richard Mackay, who having served since the original appointment of the Committee; the last 5 years as its Chair, will step down at the end of this year. Richard enjoys an international reputation in heritage management, and is currently a cultural heritage adviser to the World Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Area is fortunate to have reaped the benefits of his energy, clear thinking and persuasive, values-based approach.

The Blue Mountains Gazette published two stories about the celebration and the Values book.

The Greater Blue Mountains extends across the traditional lands of the Darug, Darkinjung, Gundungurra, Tharawal, Wonarua and Waradjeri peoples.

A well-known business card

Mackay Strategic enjoyed some recent press coverage, courtesy of Richard Mackay’s business card and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Column 8.

While Richard himself denies ever sending his card to the paper, he does confess to being an inveterate issuer of business cards!

On Monday 23 November, the lead Colum 8 Story noted:

Column 8 came across a business card in our wallet this morning, with no clue as to how it got there, (we all have cards like that, found days, weeks, or even months after the event), of a certain “Prof Richard Mackay, AM”. All well and good but the job description under Richard’s name intrigued us: “Director of Possibilities”. We considered calling the number, but hesitated. Who knows what might have happened had we done so.

Director of Possibilities

Director of Possibilities

Calls, smart remarks, text messages and emails alerted Richard to the unexpected coverage of the Mackay Strategic venture. While Richard himself was unable to make contact, two days later the lead story provided a further update:

“Richard Mackay is an archaeologist and possibilities have taken him far from the student days we shred in the 1980s” reports geoarchaeologist Tessa Corkhill, of Glenorie (“Director of Possibilities on a business card”, Column 8 Monday). “According to LinkedIn his current work ‘identifies possibilities and provides solutions for cultural heritage places’. Ah!”

But things did not end there. By Thursday, the Mackay Strategic business card had been usurped:

Richard Mackay’s business card (“Director of Possibilities”, Column 8 since Monday), has been outdone . . .

The story went on to describe another job title as including: “revolutions started, orgies organised, demonstrations led, saloons emptied, computers rectified, governments run, uprisings quelled, wars fought, bridges destroyed and tigers tamed.”

Indeed, the possibilities seem endless . . .

IORA – Cultural Tourism Workshop

Richard Mackay was the Australian delegate at a recent cultural tourism workshop hosted in Pedang, Sumatra, by the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Australian delegate at IORA cultural tourism workshop

Richard Mackay at IORA workshop

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is an international organisation comprising 20 coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean, which seeks to promote regional co-operation in government, business and academia. IORA focuses particularly on trade facilitation, investment, promotion and social development.

The Chair of IORA recently passed from Australia to Indonesia and the cultural tourism workshop was convened by Indonesia to consider how member nations may share information and otherwise foster this fast-growing area of tourist activity in the region.

Participants in the workshop included delegates from Bangladesh, India, Iran, Indonesia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Thailand. One highlight of the event was a visit to Sinjunjung; a Sumatran village with distinctive timber architecture and continuing traditional culture, which has been nominated to the World Heritage List. Workshop delegates were treated to a civic reception, village tour, cultural performances and splendid local cuisine.

As the Australian delegate, Richard presented the ‘Angkor Tourism Management Plan’, focusing particularly on how cultural tourism can provide benefits to local communities, by creating sustainable livelihoods and connecting local people directly with the economic benefits that flow from tourism. The Angkor work was undertaken by GML Heritage for UNESCO and the Royal Government of Cambodia with support from the Australian Government.

The IORA cultural tourism workshop recognised that in some countries like Australia and Thailand, there is already a vibrant cultural tourism industry, while other nations like Seychelles and Mauritius have wonderful and unique experiences to offer. The workshop identified opportunities for facilitating cultural tourism in the region through shared experience and both research and ‘hands-on’ programs.

Traditional wooden house

Traditional wooden house

Welcome by children in traditional dress

Welcome by children in traditional dress

IORA Cultural Tourism Workshop Delegates

IORA Cultural Tourism Workshop Delegates


Bringing together some loose threads . . .

‘Fabric’ was the theme of the Australia ICOMOS 2015 annual conference, held at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide in early November.

Richard Mackay facilitated the conference plenary session at which ideas from the three themes: ‘conserving fabric’, ‘fabric and place’ and ‘social fabric’ were brought together in some animated discussions.

Keynote speaker Julian Smith, Executive Director of Canadian Willowbank, Canada, highlighted the importance of a ‘hands-on’, almost visceral, understanding of fabric and traditional trades. Peter Cox, Chair of ICOMOS Ireland and the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Energy and Sustainability, spoke eloquently of both embodied energy and the inheritance value of cultural fabric, noting that ‘there is nothing greener than an existing building’.

Prof Neale Draper from Australian Cultural Heritage Management connected the gathering with surrounding Country, noting the need to recognise the role of social fabric and particularly the relationship between Australian Aboriginal and their important places. Susan Macdonald, Director of Field Projects at the Getty Conservation Institute, highlighted a global trend for less public sector involvement and support – meaning that models and practices for fabric conservation were changing.

Richard Mackay noted the interesting way in which the conference had evolved from an initial focus on physical fabric and conservation techniques, towards a broader contextual understanding of the relationship between fabric and place, particularly towards social fabric and meaning. Nevertheless, fabric was recognised as an anchor which ties heritage places and their meanings together. Loss of traditional knowledge in heritage trades, the need for new sustainable approaches and the declining role of government are therefore major issues for heritage practice in Australia today.

Ultimately, the ‘threads of fabric’ in the plenary discussion came together in a common understanding that it is the nexus between fabric and meaning which creates heritage value.

Richard Mackay at Plenary Session

Richard Mackay at Plenary Session


NSW Heritage Network – Keynote Address


In mid August, Richard Mackay delivered the keynote address to the 2015 annual workshop of the NSW Heritage Advisors’ Network at the Heritage Division of the Office of Environment and Heritage.

Richard’s talk, entitled: Perspectives on Indigenous Heritage Management in Australia was presented at short notice, when the scheduled speaker, The Hon Mark Speakman, Minister for Environment and Heritage, was not available.

Richard noted that the 2011 State of the Environment Report had concludes that Australia is: a complex, layered natural and cultural landscape in which unique geodiversity and biodiversity provide the backdrop to an ancient, but continuing Indigenous culture . . .

In his presentation, Richard drew attention to the lack of common standards for data collection and regulation of Indigenous heritage around Australia and the need for better co-ordination by both government and non-government agencies.

Particular concern was expressed about continuing incremental destruction of Indigenous places, despite the views expressed by Australian Senate Committee hearing as long ago as 2007:

… heritage, once destroyed or sullied, can rarely be recovered. As well, it is important for avoiding the tyranny of little decisions, whereby incremental developments—perhaps done under the aegis of improving access—end up destroying the attractions for which the place was set up in the first place.

The presentation also highlighted recent additions to the National Heritage List, noting increasing awareness of contemporary Indigenous values, as reflected in the listing of the Moree Baths – a site of protest during the 1965 Freedom Ride. However, there are still major gaps – such as the outstanding importance of Indigenous heritage across the Greater Blue Mountains, which include the traditions, memories and meanings of six Indigenous groups, as well as the better-known amazing galleries of carved and painted rock art.

Richard celebrated an emerging trend which has seen greater consultation with Indigenous stakeholders about their attachment to ‘place’, rather than focusing entirely on the archaeological record and stone tool scatters, in western Sydney. In some cases such consultative processes have resulted in the reservation of lands within new suburban developments for cultural reasons.

The workshop and Richard’s address provided a valuable opportunity for Heritage Division staff and professionals who advise local government and the community to learn about emerging trends and issues in Indigenous heritage management in Australia.

A copy of the presentation slides may be found here: MACKAY – SHARED HERITAGE AUG 21 2015

State of the Environment 2016

Mt-Yengo-Aboriginal-Place---SOE-2016-copyProf Richard Mackay has been appointed as the heritage theme author for the 2016 Commonwealth State of the Environment (SOE 2016) report.

State of the Environment reports are tabled in the Australian Parliament every five years. They review the state and trends of the environment; pressures and the drivers which affect the environment; management initiatives which address environmental concerns, resilience risks and threats; and provide an overall outlook for the Australian environment.

The main purpose of the SOE report is to provide information on environmental issues to the community and to both government and non-government decision-makers, in order to raise awareness and support well-informed environmental management decisions that lead to more sustainable use and effective conservation.

Richard was responsible for the heritage chapter of the SOE 2011 report, in which an innovative set of ‘scorecards’, used to measure and present the state, condition and management effectiveness for both natural and cultural heritage were used for the first time.

SOE 2011 found that:

Our extraordinary and diverse natural and cultural heritage is currently in good condition, but is threatened by natural and human processes, and a lack of public sector resourcing.

The issues identified by Richard in the heritage chapter of SOE 2011 have informed and directed the development of a new Australian Heritage Strategy, which was exhibited in draft form in 2014.

For SOE 2016 the same ‘scorecard’ approach will be adopted, to provide a picture of key trends, as well as highlighting areas which warrant policy development of additional resources.

Richard and the other theme authors; (atmosphere, biodiversity, built environment, coasts, inland water, land, marine environment and Antarctica); are writing ‘analysis and scoping’ papers which will identify what has changed and how updated information can be a gathered at a national scale, allowing for measurement and evaluation of the state of Australia’s natural and cultural environment.

Further information: click here



Richard Mackay at the World Heritage Committee


Prof Richard Mackay recently returned from an influential role as ICOMOS cultural heritage as adviser during the 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Bonn, Germany.

While much of the focus during World Heritage Committee sessions is on the World Heritage List, part of each session involves reporting and discussions about the ‘State of Conservation’ of properties which are on the List of ‘World Heritage in Danger’ or other properties whose ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ may be under threat. (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was one of the properties considered during the State of Conservation discussions at this Session).

A major part of the 39th Session was devoted to consideration of World Heritage properties in conflict zones, particularly in the Middle East. During this Session, Richard Mackay provided advice about threats to World Heritage properties in Iraqi as a result of ISIL occupation, as well as the civil conflict and destruction that is occurring in Yemen. The ancient site of Hatra in Iraqi and the Old City of Sana’a and the City of Shibam in Yemen were both inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

There was also substantial discussion about the devastating earthquake which has wreaked havoc on the World Heritage property of Kathmandu, in Nepal. The global community were united in expressing great sympathy and extending offers practical support in response to this tragedy.

The final days of the session were spent considering places which had been nominated to the World Heritage List. 24 properties were inscribed, including the French landscapes of Burgundy and Champagne, the Aqueduct of Padre in Mexico, Ephesus in Turkey, the Meiji Sites of Japan’s Industrial Revolution, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens and the Birthplace of Jesus in Jordan.

For Richard, it was a huge challenge to process vast amounts of information and provide effective, expert advice in a timely manner, but also a huge privilege to make such a profound contribution to the conservation of our common heritage.

Further information: