08 Jan 2024

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) General Assembly 2023

Case Studies

1,300 delegates from around the world

1,800 participants

100+ global youths camping on Cockatoo Island, Wareamah

54 different off site events

2000 different activities were experienced around the city


The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a non-government global professional association that works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world. The ICOMOS General Assembly and the Scientific Symposium provides an opportunity for heritage professionals and enthusiasts to come together to deliberate on heritage conservation and management.

ICOMOS GA2023, hosted in Sydney, Australia from 31 August – 9 September 2023, was the largest gathering of cultural heritage specialists from Australia and around the world to have gathered in Australia. The theme, heritage changes, focused on the way in which the world is experienced and the challenges of the current era from climate emergency, black lives matter, global conflict, the experience and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and exploring the role of heritage in these aspects of modern life and a sustainable future. To this end sub themes for the meeting were: ‘Resilience Responsibility – Rights – Relationships’. An exciting array of cultural events were held in conjunction with the formal meetings and a five-day Scientific Symposium.

The opportunity to bring together people from across the globe was really special, and to have people in Sydney to appreciate the extraordinary natural and cultural heritage of this great city and state was a turning point for us and we’ll really value the connections that we all made at this great meeting and all the other allied events in and around the conference.

Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon

NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment

Kylie Christian photography

Why Sydney? 

This was the first time the ICOMOS General Assembly was held in Sydney. Australia’s multicultural society, First Nations heritage and extensive range of World Heritage sites was a major drawcard for the event. As well as being Australia’s premier city and international gateway, there are six World Heritage sites in NSW, including natural environments, Australian Convict sites and the Sydney Opera House, making it the ideal location for the event and conference site visits.

The event was hosted at International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) on Darling Harbour, in close proximity to transport links and a range of accommodation. With city attractions within walking distance, Sydney offers delegates an opportunity to explore by foot.

We pitched that Sydney was a truly international venue with a rich cultural heritage and indeed three World Heritage properties that the visitors could experience and Sydney absolutely delivered.

Prof Richard Mackay AM

Conference and Bid Convenor, and Bid Leader

Kylie Christian photography


Representatives from more than 100 national committees and 31 scientific committees came together in Sydney to celebrate the world's cultural heritage and promote responsible conservation.  

An exciting array of cultural events were held in conjunction with the formal meetings and a five-day Scientific Symposium. The conference showcased Australia’s cultural heritage, World Heritage-listed sites, first nations ancient skills and heritage conservation practices to the global audience. 

The ten-day program included site visits, workshops, lectures, expert meetings and social gatherings. Venues include World Heritage-listed properties and locations such as the Blue Mountains and visits to significant Aboriginal and historic cultural places across Australia both during the event and through associated tours. 

Kylie Christian photography

Creating Impact

First Nations heritage was a key topic for the meeting  and Indigenous delegates were welcomed by Australia’s First Nations traditional owners in a welcoming ceremony at the Bara Monument in the Botanic Gardens, overlooking Bennelong Point and the Sydney Opera House. A full day symposium session was dedicated to  Indigenous stewardship of cultural heritage. This provided a spotlight for Traditiona lOwners to share knowledge. To this end, ICOMOS provided 10 grants to attend the symposium while Heritage NSW offered 100 complimentary registrations for Traditional Owners. 

To develop the next generation of conservation enthusiasts an event for ICOMOS youth was held on Cockatoo Island to create a network of younger delegates and develop their knowledge and leadership.  

Delivering Results

The event was supported by the Australian Government, an active member of ICOMOS, extending its global leadership in heritage conservation practice. Speakers such as the Honourable Tanya Plibersek MP ,Minister for the Environment and Water elevated the conference agenda, raising the importance of heritage and sustainability. The event led to a number of policy announcements by the NSW and federal governments.

Sydney has catalysed a number of important initiatives for our cultural heritage. We're really pleased that the New South Wales Minister for Heritage, the Honourable Penny Sharpe, has committed to a new heritage strategy for the State, and we were delighted that at the opening ceremony the Commonwealth Minister, the Honourable Tanya Plibersek, announced that all of the National Heritage Places and Australian World Heritage Properties, which were listed for natural values, would also be reassessed for their cultural values, which is of course really important to our First Nations communities.

Prof Richard Mackay AM

Conference and Bid Convenor, and Bid Leader