Melbourne’s Federation Square, Victorian State Heritage Site - 12 September 2019

After a year-long process, Melbourne’s Federation Square has been included in the Victorian State Heritage Register. We speak to Felicity Watson, Advocacy Manager for National Trust, on what it means for this important heritage and cultural site.

Q: What is an interesting heritage fact about Federation Square people might not know?
Federation Square was conceived as a monument to the centenary of the federation of the Australian states. By 2003, a year after its opening, it had become the most awarded project in the history of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Victoria. The square is paved with approximately half a million cobblestones made of Kimberley sandstone from Mt Jowlaenga in Western Australia.

Q: How important is Federation Square to Melbourne and even Victoria?
Federation Square is Victoria’s premier civic and cultural space, representing the culmination of Melbourne’s century-long search for a grand public square. The space is also aesthetically and architecturally significant, with a high degree of technical achievement demonstrated in its construction. It is built on a deck covering a working railway line, and is the largest expanse of railway decking built in Australia. Its distinctive architectural language utilises non-orthogonal forms and fractal geometries. The use of CAD and 3D modelling in its design and construction were innovative for its time.

Q: Briefly explain the process of having Federation Square added to the Victorian Heritage Register? (Ie how long has it been in the works for; who were the people working on it etc.)
The National Trust began assessing Federation Square’s heritage value in light of threats posed by a major transport project, and the proposed demolition of one of the buildings. We nominated it to the Victorian Heritage Register in mid-2018, following more than 12 months of consultation with heritage and architectural experts, including the National Trust’s expert advisory committees.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in this process?
One of the biggest challenges we have encountered is broadening the public’s conceptions of heritage to include more recently constructed buildings, and places of cultural and social value. While it is unusual for a place so “young” to be considered for its heritage values, the National Trust believes that Federation Square is significant as a monumental example of twenty-first century architecture, which has developed a high level of cultural significance since it opened in 2002.

Q: What do you hope comes from this recognition?
Federation Square’s heritage registration provides a foundation for its architectural and cultural values to be considered as part of any future development plans. Importantly, the heritage process also requires the public to be consulted as part of any future change. The listing has already led to a major review into Federation Square’s governance and operations, which we hope will enhance its role as Melbourne’s premier civic and cultural space. 

Q: What site or place would you like added to the Heritage Register next?
The National Trust’s most recent nomination to the state heritage register is Footscray Psychiatric Centre. A significant example of Brutalist architecture in Melbourne, it has historical significance as an example of a facility that emerged from changes in the understanding and treatment of mental illness in the late-twentieth century. The mission of the National Trust is to recognise, protect and celebrate historic buildings that reflect the complexity of our history and community, and we believe this building tells an important story about the history of psychiatric treatment in the state.

Felicity Watson is a member of the Marketing Sub Committee for ICOMOS GA2020 where she manages the social media activity.

Heritage experts launch ICOMOS GA2020 - 25 February 2019

Australia’s key heritage industry representatives have gathered to launch the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) 2020 General Assembly and Scientific Symposium.

Representatives from government and heritage organisations met at Sydney Living Museums’ historic Sydney Mint on Monday 25 February evening to mark the forthcoming major event.

ICOMOS GA2020 will take place 1-11 October 2020 at the International Convention Centre Sydney and is expected to attract more than 1,200 industry professionals from around the world. They will participate in four days of sessions and presentations, as well as visits to significant cultural heritage sites such as Sydney Opera House and Greater Blue Mountains, along with other social events and workshops.
Australia ICOMOS President Ian Travers kicked off the ICOMOS GA2020 launch with Acknowledgement of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which GA2020 will be held.

ICOMOS GA2020 Convenor Richard Mackay said: “This Conference will provide a valuable opportunity for Australia to learn from the world’s best cultural heritage practitioners and to share and showcase our shared culture, amazing cultural places and outstanding heritage conservation achievements. We are grateful for the support of the government and other strategic partners as well as our corporate patrons.”

Prof Mackay also thanked the government and strategic partners for ICOMOS GA2020 including Luna Park, as the venue for the Assembly’s large social function, the Sydney Federation Trust, which will welcome the GA2020 ‘Youth Forum’ on Cockatoo Island, and Qantas, which is offering special incentives for both domestic and international attendees.

Naseema Sparks, Chair Sydney Living Museums, pointed out the host venue Sydney Mint was a living example of the positive outcomes of heritage conservation, based on the principles of Australia ICOMOS’ Burra Charter.

David Williams, Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy, also addressed the gathering, recognising Australia’s global reputation for outstanding cultural heritage conservation and management.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is supporting ICOMOS GA 2020, as is the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The ICOMOS General Assembly also formally acknowledges the valued support of founding Opal Patrons’ Extent Heritage, GML Heritage and Lovell Chen and founding South Sea Pearl Patrons; NBRS Architecture and International Conservation Services.

Logo Narrative


The GA2020 logo shows a stylised Xanthorrhoea (‘black boy’) plant, in the shape of Sydney Opera House. The design was conceived by Blak Douglas (aka Adam Hill), a Sydney-based Aboriginal artist, and developed collaboratively with Greg Hosking from Monotron Creative. It is fitting that the design concept arises from collaboration with an Indigenous artist, given the GA2020 theme of ‘shared culture–shared heritage–shared responsibility’, as the design process itself has been a ‘shared’ task; both practically and culturally. The iconography picks up the ‘nature–culture journey’, which is a major GA2020 program element, reflecting the importance of recognising that even natural heritage places have Traditional Owners and cultural values. The recognisable shape of the Sydney Opera House, attests to more-recent cultural values, but is at the same time distinctively different from more usual Sydney Opera House iconography. The local name for the Xanthorrhoea is ‘Gadi’; reflected in the name of the ‘Gadigal’ people of the Eora Nation, the Traditional Owners of the land on which GA2020 will be held. The image of the Sydney Opera House is used under licence from the Sydney Opera House Trust.