Preserving Australian Rural Heritage & the ICOMOS conference

Australian – International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is the peak body for Australian professionals who work in heritage conservation. This year the annual conference theme is ‘Outback & Beyond – The Future of Historic Towns, Industrial Heritage & Pastoralism’. The upcoming conference will be in Broken Hill (far western NSW), 22-25 April 2010.

The 2006 ICOMOS conference was held in Freemantle (southern WA); 2007 in Cairns (far north Qld) and 2009 in Sydney (NSW), so the Broken Hill conference is the first inland event held.

Preserving built heritage is a very expensive business and there is never enough money to go around and there never will be. However in relative terms, an absolute pittance is spent on conserving the built environment outside capital cities. Fabulous old shearing sheds, quarters, timber yards and homesteads are worth preserving for a number of good reasons however there is often no money and/or no interest in at least doing basic repairs to ensure survival, let alone what is required to renovate.

Lack of money is an understandable reason for the sorry state of many rural dwellings of note however lack of money is often not the cause of destruction. So often I have seen damage occur that could so easily have been avoided simply by a bit of thought and respect. Not pulling out the 100 year old fence posts to stick on the fire, not letting the sheep camp in the old quarters, not pinching a few sheets of old corrugated iron from the roof of the disused shearing shed to stick on a roof over a bore pump – such easy preservation measures, if there’s some basic respect for heritage and the efforts of earlier generations.

Jane Lennon has written an excellent research paper discussing the preservation of rural heritage in regional Queensland, for the Broken Hill ICOMOS conference.