Better risk management is needed for cultural heritage

Cultural heritage items require greater risk management plans against natural disasters, including floods and fires. (Image: Victoria Pearce of Endangered Heritage)

The urgent need for institutions to understand and implement cultural heritage disaster risk management plans has been amplified by the recent catastrophic fires, cyclones and ongoing floods that are devastating sites of great significance. culture across Australia.

Heritage professionals in Australia, a country known for great environmental and climatic extremes, must therefore adopt state-of-the-art management practices to mitigate the impending loss, according to a leading scholar in archeology and cultural heritage at Flinders University. .

Dr Ania Kotarba-Morley, Senior Lecturer in Archeology at Flinders University and Expert Member of the UNESCO Advisory Bodies ICOMOS-ANZCORP (International Committee on Monuments and Sites – Australian Risk Preparedness Task Force and of New Zealand) and ICAHM (International Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management), held a workshop from July 26-28 to discuss improving risk management that will help institutions mitigate damage to sites and to items of significant cultural heritage.

The three-day workshop taught with another ICOMOS-ANZCORP expert – conservation architect Catherine Forbes, from Sydney – is the first of its kind held in Australia and will feature case studies of dramatic disasters that have affected natural and archived cultural heritage sites and features.

The workshop will introduce participants to the process of identifying and managing risks to heritage places, including their landscape settings, interior collections and movable heritage.

It will include a presentation by the director of a museum in Lismore, New South Wales, which was submerged by floodwaters, and other cultural institutions affected by earthquakes in Christchurch, bushfires throughout New South Wales, cyclones in the Northern Territory and land erosion caused by rising sea levels in the Torres Strait Islands.

The valuable collections are highly threatened by natural disasters. (Image: Victoria Pearce of Endangered Heritage)

“The impacts of climate change and natural disasters such as sea level rise, coastal flooding, extreme weather conditions and increased frequency and intensity of bushfires put many archaeological sites and heritage sites at risk of erosion, flooding and destruction,” says Dr Kotarba-Morley.

“This potential loss of heritage – both tangible and intangible – is serious and requires immediate mitigation measures.”

The three-day workshop on “Introduction to Disaster Risk Management for Cultural Heritage” is organized by the ICOMOS Joint Scientific Committee on Cultural Heritage Risk Preparedness in Australia and New Zealand in collaboration with Flinders University.

The workshop was booked at full capacity, with participants from Australian and New Zealand government agencies, including at least 10 Indigenous Traditional Owners from across Australia (including the Torres Strait Islands, Northern Land Arnhem and remote areas of QLD, SA, NSW and VIC). They will be joined by more than 80 online participants from across Australia and the Pacific Rim, including New Zealand, Micronesia, Palau, PNG and Fiji.

“The course takes a multi-hazard approach and will engage multiple areas of expertise ranging from emergency management, emergency response, cultural heritage management, policy and strategic disaster planning,” explains Katherine Forbes.

The workshop will focus on the identification and management of disaster risks for heritage places, including their landscape settings, archaeology, interiors, collections and movable heritage.

It will explain emergency management, emergency response, cultural heritage management, policy and strategic disaster planning, and developing strategies to respond to and recover from disasters.

It will also include reflections from Indigenous Traditional Owners from different parts of Australia on the consequences of losing valuable cultural heritage.

Workshop presenters, comprising two days of lectures and a day in the field to put theory into practice, will include:

  • Ania Kotarba-Morley, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide
  • Catherine Forbes, Director, GML Heritage, Sydney.
  • Victoria Pearce, Director, Senior Cultural Curator, Endangered Heritage, Canberra.
  • Associate Professor Temitope Egbelakin, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle.
  • Helen McCracken, Senior Advisor, New Zealand Department of Culture and Heritage.
  • Vanessa Tanner, Head of Archaeology, Heritage New Zealand.

The full workshop program is available here:

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