Day Two, Intangible Heritage – UNESCO Asia Pacific Mayors’ Forum for World Heritage Cities

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 A key theme for the second day of the forum looked at protection of the authenticity of heritage places. We looked at issues such as: when does tourism become a problem for heritage – taking away its authenticity and integrity instead of conserving and enhancing it.

This included an interesting discussion on the links between tangible and intangible heritage. Tangible heritage includes the built heritage we normally think of – the monuments and buildings etc we can see and touch. In contrast, intangible heritage is the culture and people and customs that make a place.

But a clear agreement that emerged is that tangible heritage becomes much more meaningful and authentic when its intangible heritage is still practiced in that place.

It is easy to think of places where the tangible built heritage remains but the intangible heritage has gone leaving the place feel more like a museum or a Disneyland than a real place. For example, in Venice where tourists in the peak season out number residents 60 to 1 it is hard to spot a Venetian! Similarly, the recent world heritage listing of the village of Lijiang, China has meant that most of the residents (the very people that made the ancient village so interesting and unique) were forced out by high rental prices and the conversion of residents to short-term accommodation and souvenir shops. It is now a place where tourists just see other tourists more than an authentic village.

To bring this to the fore we visited the oldest historic village in Korea. Yangdong Village is a world heritage site which has been occupied by the same family since the 15th century. While it was very interesting, as well as beautiful, it was hard not to think that these families in Yangdong were also treated a little like museum pieces that acted for the tens of thousands of tourists that watched them “in everyday life”. It seemed more caricature that heritage to me perhaps because it lacked authenticity and integrity.

What are the implications of this for Fremantle? The challenge for Fremantle is that while our tangible built heritage is now well protected – our unique old buildings alone don’t’ make Fremantle the special place it is. We also need to protect Fremantle’s intangible heritage. For me this is a place of diverse people, people who value culture and the arts and sustainability. A part of our heritage is that we are like a big village. We are a bit alternative, we know each other in the streets and look out for the less advantaged in our community and like to do things a little differently to the rest of Perth.

This intangible heritage of diversity and difference requires special protections too but they aren’t as easy and defined as protecting old buildings. But it is possible and includes making sure Fremantle is a place in which there is affordable housing, in which artists can live and work, in which we continue to be leaders in social and environmental policy.

So day two of the forum focused on a debate that is relevant to Fremantle. It was clear that the most successful heritage cities are really living cities that provide a unique and authentic experience for a wide range of people – both tourists and residents.

I finished the day’s formalities with a Mayoral group photo and a one on one meeting with the Mayor of Gyeongju. I received a beautiful gift of 24 carat gold oversized heritage ear rings from him. The City of Fremantle gave him in return a photo of Fremantle’s by a local Freo photographer and a Freo book. Now I just have to work out how the get these huge ear rings home!

Some thoughts on heritage from Korea – UNESCO Asia Pacific Mayors’ Forum for World Heritage Cities

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This week I had the honour of been invited by UNESCO to represent Australian mayors with world heritage sites in their cities at a United Nations forum in the historic city of Gyeongju in South Korea. (In fact all week I have been answering to the name Australia Mayor!)

My trip to South Korea got off to a rather bumpy start with a typhoon hitting South Korea just before my arrival delaying flights, cancelling the high speed trains and creating one of the roughest flight and landings I have ever experienced.

Over thirty hours after I left WA (with almost no sleep) I finally arrived in Gyeongju just hours before the forum kicked off with Mayors from places as diverse as China, Uzbekistan, Palau and Korea.

A key theme that has emerged out of the first day of the conference was the familiar Fremantle theme of heritage and urban density. It was interesting to see that the debates within UNESCO around heritage in urban areas from the Taj Mahal to Vienna to London mirror the debates Fremantle has had in recent years.

There are 962 World Heritage Sites in total and 260 of these are world heritage site within cities (including Fremantle – although only 10% are in the Asia Pacific region). These heritage cities all have the challenge of managing the interface the old with newer, higher density urban developments. In some places it is been done well (ie Vienna) but in others such a Georgetown, Malaysia and even parts of London there are real concerns about how compatible planned new, more intensive developments are with existing heritage areas.

Despite the controversy around heights and A49 in Fremantle it is pretty clear that Fremantle is doing it pretty well (up there with the best heritage cities around the world) by ensuring new developments are away from core heritage areas like the West End and the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison and are of an appropriate density (6-10 floors) not over bearing, huge high-rise.

I was able to share Fremantle’s approach to heritage protection including the use of precincts with different characteristics, heights and buffer zones, as well as levels of heritage ratings we use for buildings in Fremantle. I think this was seen as helpful by many Mayors in the room who had did not have these kinds of governance arrangements in place in their cities yet.

I also presented a paper on Heritage and Environmental Sustainability using Fremantle as an example which was well received.

If you are interested in more on this see the recommendation by UNESCO for heritage and urban areas:

The full forum schedule is here if you are interested:

We finished the day with a traditional Korean Meal and entertainment followed by a night visit to a nearby world heritage site.

State of Carbon Politics at CUSP next Monday night

CUSP is holding a free Q&A session on the State of Carbon Politics at CUSP next Monday night as part of its Climate Policy short course. See below for details.

A brief overview of the Clean Energy Package will be given by Associate Professor Chris Lund before turning to the panelists.

All welcome!




Kind regards,

The Fremantle Network invite you to: Visions for Fremantle – from Victoria Quay to Kings Square

The Fremantle Network invite you to: Visions for Fremantle – from Victoria Quay to Kings Square

When – Thursday the 23rd of August
5.30pm drinks and networking 6.15pm for talks

Where – The Attic, Bannister Street, Fremantle

What Two short presentations on the future of Fremantle

1. Lessons from Leicester – Ben Braham

(Fremantle Architect/Resident) will talk on his experience of this retail led transformation it’s similarities to the Kings Square project.

2. Connecting Fremantle with the Waterfront – Georgia Taylor-Berry (UWA/CODA) will talk on her plans for Victoria Quay that will radically reconnect Fremantle with the Harbour.

Drinks will be for sale on the night

RSVP essential to

Have your say on the plastic bag reduction local law

The plastic bag reduction local law is now out for advertising until Tuesday 2 October.
As you no doubt know, the purpose of the proposed local law will be to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags within the City of Fremantle. The effect will be to prohibit retailers from providing single use plastic shopping bags and impose a minimum fee of 10c for each alternative shopping bag provided to shoppers.
It is good to see Subway getting ahead of the pack by already phasing out

plastic bags in its Market Street store. Along with Bunnings and Target and others it is good to see Freo businesses reducing their plastic bag use before the law even comes into place. Well done
Go to
to view a copy of the proposed local law. Comments can be submitted to:
Chief Executive Officer
City of Fremantle
PO Box 807
Fremantle 6959

“Keep Freo in Freo” gets some heavy hitter behind it

The Sunday Times ran a good article on the Dockers proposed move to Cockburn with former Premier Peter Dowding, Prof Peter Newman, former Mayor Richard Utting and Chris Lewis. It is worth a read.

The challenge of homelessness and begging in Fremantle

This last week was Homeless Persons Week and there has been a renewed focus on the issues of homelessness and begging in Fremantle by the WA  media. It is a tough and complex issue and I thought the ABC’s 7.30WA  did a particularly good job of dealing with this in a balanced and compassionate way.

The 7.30 WA  from August 10th 2012 can be found at:

This is not an issue where I feel like the Freo Council has all the answers or even all the powers to implement if we did.

It is clear to me however that a stronger and more effective response that starts to tackle the underlying issues of homelessness, mental health and addiction in needed. In boom state WA it is not good enough that so many people are doing it so tough and falling through the cracks and finding themselves on the streets of Freo. It is not good for Freo and not good for them either.

I’d welcome your thoughts on this tough issue.