Australia supports preservation of Yangon's urban heritage

Media release

6 June 2012

Foreign Minister Bob Carr today announced a range of measures to build Myanmar's capacity to preserve Yangon's urban heritage.

Senator Carr said the Australian Government will provide the Yangon Heritage Trust with specialist resources and fund a visitor exchange focused on urban planning personnel between Australia and Myanmar.

Senator Carr made the announcement on a walking tour of Yangon with the founder of Yangon Heritage Trust, Thant Myint-U, on his first visit to Myanmar as Australia's Foreign Minister.

In his first speech as a Senator in the Australian Parliament on March 21 2012, Senator Carr spoke of racial and religious tolerance, encouraging an overlap of cultures and the importance of preserving historic structures to support national pride, community and identity.

In this speech he referred specifically to the task of preserving the heritage buildings and streetscapes of Yangon.

"A hundred years ago, Yangon was one of the great trading cities of Asia.

"In the downtown area, pagodas, a synagogue, a madrasa, churches, and Hindu and Hokkien temples are found close together.

"This architectural history confirms the rich and diverse nature of Myanmar.

"As Myanmar opens to international investment capital, new commercial, retail and residential development will put pressure on city planners and decision-makers, in particular in Yangon.

"As a former State Minister for Planning and Environment, I know that heritage protection depends on a well developed preservation plan that identifies heritage assets, creates opportunities for innovative and sympathetic re-use of buildings, fits within the city's overall urban design and is supported by effective protection orders that prohibit demolition or inappropriate redevelopment of heritage buildings and precincts.

"The Yangon Heritage Trust has been given the critical task of drafting a conservation strategy for the Government of Myanmar to guide the preservation of Yangon's urban heritage.

"Australia is pleased to support the Trust and the sustainable development of this beautiful and historic city," Senator Carr said.

Australia has already provided an initial $5,000 in funding to the Yangon Heritage Trust to support community participation in development planning for downtown Yangon.

In addition, Senator Carr today announced Australia has offered to fund the secondment of an Australian expert to the Yangon Heritage Trust.

"The Australian Government will also invite a number of Myanmar and city government officials and other heritage and planning professionals to travel to Australia.

"The visitors will meet with Australian heritage experts including planners and architects and inspect heritage buildings and precincts to see first-hand examples of best-practice restoration and innovative reuse of heritage buildings," Senator Carr said.

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