Faculty of Education and Arts

Remembering Dr Ron van Oers - Historic Urban Landscape and UNESCO heritage expert

Federation University Australia, the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) and Ballarat has lost a dear friend and supporter. On 28 April Dr Ron van Oers died suddenly from a brain aneurysm while undertaking field work with UNESCO in Nepal.

As Vice-Director of the Shanghai-based World Heritage Institute of Training and Research – Asia Pacific (WHITRAP), Dr van Oers was instrumental in establishing Ballarat as one of the first cities in the world to trial UNESCO's Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach to urban conservation. He pioneered the Historic Urban Landscape approach and is recognised globally as its leading theorist and practitioner.

Dr van Oers loved visiting Ballarat, most recently in February of this year, when he was the keynote speaker at the 'Revitalising Historic Cities' Symposium hosted by the City of Ballarat and Federation University Australia. He worked closely with Susan Fayad and the Heritage Team at the City of Ballarat as well as researchers from CRIC, CRCAH and CHCAP at Deakin University. He was an exceptional scholar, inspirational thinker, and a valued friend.

He implored both the City and its citizens to re-think our relationship with heritage and history, placing our shared values at the heart of future urban growth and development. CRCAH will take up that challenge with renewed vigour and determination, to ensure that Ron's legacy lives on in Ballarat and beyond.

Plans are currently in train to commemorate Ron's life with a number of tributes. Ron would be pleased to think his work continues. Alfred Deakin Laureate Professor and UNESCO activist Bill Logan has noted that it is important to commemorate 'his influence on our own work' in Australia. Two new books will commemorate Ron's influence and life. One is Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability, from which Ron was an essential inspiration, and the book is dedicated to him. The other book is the Blackwell Companion to Heritage Studies to which Ron was a contributor. Federation University Australia will host a commemorative one day seminar in Ballarat to celebrate Ron's ideas later in the year.

Members of CRCAH extend their thoughts to Ron's wife, his family in the Netherlands and his colleagues in UNESCO and affiliated organisations. His loss will be felt in not only in international circles but also in the Ballarat region where he was a passionate advocate for promoting the heritage values of the historic cities and towns that define so much of the character of the region.

For further information please contact Professor Keir Reeves k.reeves@federation.edu.au or David B McGinniss davidmcginniss@students.federation.edu.au

Photo: Dr Ron van Oers speaking in Ballarat in February 2015, courtesy Narelle Wilson