Oct 5

International Symposium on Historical Urban Landscapes in Ballarat

Ballarat has been graced with an international symposium about the Historical Urban Landscape. BE Net was there, you’ll remember we did some work with the initial working party who are looking at Ballarat as a place to pilot UNESCOs recommendations.

Here is the invite with all the details of the day: Invitation to HUL Symposium

Speakers were:

  • Dr Ron Van Oers Vice-Director, The World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region (WHI-TRAP), Shanghai, and co-author of The Historic Urban Landscape, Managing Heritage in an Urban Century
  • Kristal Buckley, Lecturer in Cultural Heritage, Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific, Deakin University
  • Susan Fayad, Coordinator Heritage, City of Ballarat

Here is the background: http://ballarateast.net/items/unesco/

Syposium 1

Our involvement in the working group ensured that Ballarat East was mentioned as a significant area with a need for special planning. The places we tok the working party came in for special mention also, particularly the Tammy Fence in Eureka Street.

And here is Erin’s report:

Ron Van Oers, spoke about the need to learn from communities, it’s not just about the built form, we need to enlarge the number of people involved in planning. It’s about how heritage is used by people, not about preserving heritage in a vacuum. It’s about culture and heritage and it’s also about the intangible things. For the East that may mean how our community moves around the environment, our walking trails, vegetation, meeting places, how dark it is at night.

So what role does culture and heritage play in planning? We’d all agree not enough, but how do we fix that? We need to reinforce our identity, our self-awareness, things that feel like they have been submerged to the will of developers and the planning scheme. How do we provide social cohesion and stability, enhance resilience and creativity – these are determinants of the quality of life.

Where innovation takes place is a great start. When we get developments that are interesting, that reflect and respond to the area to the environment rather than build over it, sealing it until it bursts. We need to learn from local communities, communication and feedback with developers before they build.

Syposium 2

What is also very clear to me is that we need to begin collecting and publishing the stories of the East. Let’s provide the city and with our community a look at the faces, places and spaces of the East that we need to share in order to protect. We also took the working party to the Ballarat East Town Hall Gardens, falling under a veil of neglect, under confusion over ownership – yet another example of a loss to us that we weren’t aware of.

And what is the cost of retrospective infrastructure? The amount of development in the East is only surpassed by the amount of development at Lucas. Let that sink in a bit…. In Lucas they are building the infrastructure as they go. While in the East no activity centre is warranted according to the Activity Centre Strategy, which is fine, however we need to plan for the future. What do we want the East to look like 5, 10, 20 years from now?

They talk about blue sky views in planning, ensuring everyone can see the sky. Possibly for the East we need to be talking about black sky views? We love our stars and our black nights, we need to protect that from ambient light of developments, especially the glaring street lights they erect and the internal pathway lights they are fond of.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone, let’s not let that happen here in the beautiful East. The best cities work on a layering approach, to make visible where the city has come from. Ballarat has an amazing opportunity to show the original city and environment from which it has grown. We need to ensure we value change over time and allow the community to decide on this, it’s difficult, but if we are active as a community we make it simpler.

A question was asked about how planning can be part of the process. The City of Ravensberg was used as an example where they were a planning steering committee made up of Councillors, residents, developers, community reps and historical societies where the debate of what is to be valued can take place.

Its about the old AND the new, not ransacking one for the other. Culture needs to be lived, needs to be experienced and valued. So how and where do we develop? Lets take into account the wisdom of the elders, who have been here a long time, know how the water moves through our environment, know where so-and-so grew up, know where the special places are. Elders who are often reluctant to ‘hold progress’ because of what it meant in their day; all growth was good.

We need to be welcoming of development, it cannot only be about conservation, it’s needs to be about people, the future and the environment. We need to be able to talk with developers, not be seen as the enemies of progress. We need to start a profound discussion at a local level, about our identify, our shared values and debate the city’s development strategy at the big picture level. To this end BE Net met with strategic planners this week and we have quite a tale to tell you next issue.

So research your home, talk to your neighbours and tell us some of your interesting tales, we need to share it to protect it.

It was very gratifying to have Ballarat East Network singled out for the work that we do, how we are a group led by the community and residents. Stay engaged folks, stay active and motivated and we will be rewarded with a more beautiful suburb. Stay opinionated.

Cheers Erin

PN: some books mentioned if you are interested in these topics:

  • ‘The Spirit of Cities’ by Daniel Bell & Avener de Shalit
  • The Historic Urban Landscape by Wiley Blackwell

Syposium 3



  1. Louise says:

    Great write up Erin. Sounds like a good discussion started! But a long way to go. Although we are the other side of Victoria St, not technically East, I’d love to do a little write up & some snaps of our little street, it’s heritage, it’s uses and it’s people. We are fast becoming boxed in my large developments from all angles, and I think it would be beneficial to ensure that all our neighbours have an opportunity to share their views and their histories with future developers to ensure our neighbourhood is kept in line with our needs.

    • BE Network says:

      Thanks Louise, its great to get awareness about what is happening for the East. Historically speaking anything east of the Yarrowee is part of the East so please feel free to share anything from Brown Hill, think there may be slightly more development going on in Brown Hill that over in central east too!

  2. Anne Beggs-Sunter says:

    A great report from Erin. I attended the symposium, and was impressed by Professor Ron, but his aim of consensus between developers and preservationists (and council) seemed utopian considering the fraught Civic Hall debate of the day before. Still, the message is to work towards consensus, and gathering your stories, your cultural heritage significance, is a vital task.

    • Erin says:

      Yes I agree Anne, Utopian however we do need to at least start a discussion with developers. The Civic Hall debate I think is between the city and her people, if developers are working in the background then more fool council..

  3. Erin says:

    It was a real pleasure to be there to see BE Net recognised in an international forum because of the work we have done and are doing. Sometimes I think its difficult for people to see how action, no matter how small, really can have a big impact.

    I encourage you all to keep posting your images, keep talking to your neighbours and keep stating your opinion loudly and clearly. That is democracy at work and we can have such a positive effect on Ballarat East, even when our ideas and opinions clash.

    Growing up in a large Irish family I learnt early to either have your say or shut up and live with the consequences. We should not be afraid of clashing opinions, we should be afraid of the silence that allows irreversible damage to be done. Up The East!

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