League of Historical Cities


The League of Historical Cities (WLHC) was established in Kyoto, Japan in 1987.
It aims to strengthen affiliations between historic cities to exchange knowledge and experience and ultimately, world peace by ‘deepening mutual understanding’ and ‘building on the common foundation of historical cities to strengthen affiliations between cities’.

The WLHC is in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, International Council on Monuments and Sites and the Organisation of World Heritage Cities.

In 1998 the City of Ballarat became a member of the WLHC and is one of only three Australian cities, along with the City of Melbourne and the City of Norwood, Payneham and St. Peters, to be accorded membership.

Ballarat hosted the 10th World Conference in 2006 and was subsequently elected to the Board of Directors.

Ballarat shines on world heritage stage

In September 2017, City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Samantha McIntosh and CEO Justine Linley attended the two-day League of Historical Cities board of directors meeting in Bursa, Turkey.

The City’s membership of the LHC has provided significant direct and indirect benefits for our community over almost two decades, while Ballarat has also developed its international reputation as a global leader in managing change in historic cities, and using the heritage and cultural assets of the city for the benefit of all residents.

The total economic benefits of being part of the LHC are estimated at about $480,000.

This includes:

• Hosting 200 international delegates at the LHC World Conference in 2006 - with economic benefits of $145,000

• The Historic Urban Landscape program, with multiple international conferences held in Ballarat - with economic benefits of $150,000

• Attraction of quality experienced staff to the City of Ballarat - providing economic benefits of $50,000

• In-kind contributions from international research institutions - with economic benefi ts of $100,000

• Grant funding and sponsorships as LHC board member - with economic benefits of $35,000

• Friendship City and other trade and manufacturing opportunities with international cities, such as Yangzhou in China

• Research and development partnerships with international universities

• Relationships with the United Nations Global Compact Cities Program, which opens the door for Ballarat to access international investment markets.

'Defining Universal Heritage Challenges and Solutions'

The theme of the 13th World Conference in April 2012 was ‘Defining Universal Heritage Challenges and Solutions’ and was held in Vietnam, along with a Board of Directors meeting.

The Ballarat delegation included:

      • Mayor, Councillor Mark Harris;
      • Ms Bonnie Fagan, traditional Wadawurrung women, representing the Ballarat Heritage Advisory Committee;
      • Mr Tim Sullivan, Deputy CEO and Museums Director, The Sovereign Hill Museums Association;
      • Professor Terry Lloyd, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Ballarat; and
      • Ms Susan Fayad, Coordinator Heritage, City of Ballarat.

Learnings from the 13th World Conference

Many of the WLHC member cities operate in a two-tier system of Government, often consisting of a National Government and a Regional Government, unlike Australia where we have three tiers of Government - the City of Ballarat being in the third tier.

In any other situation this difference would appear insurmountable, but the contrary is true for the WLHC.
What is core to the WLHC is that all members operate at a local/regional level – they are the closest to their communities and are operating ‘on the ground’.

During the course of the 13th World Conference, and indeed, during earlier conferences, it has become quite clear that the majority of historical cities in the League face very similar issues, challenges and often, opportunities because of their direct connection with their community.

The League is an important body for sharing information and ideas, knowledge and techniques, and collegial support amongst the leadership (political and administrative) in the member cities and towns.


Common themes

  1. Living heritage and living culture: the community is central to cultural heritage and without their support culture, in particular intangible culture, cannot continue.
  2. There were a wide range of cities presenting with one thing in common – they experience a huge amount of cultural heritage tourism, often far exceeding the amount of people living in the cities.

Unlike a number of cities around the world, the capacity of historical cities to attract the cultural heritage tourism market (which includes both tangible and intangible heritage) has not been fully understood or made the most of in Australia.
Cultural heritage tourism, managed well, can bring historical cities a number of benefits.

A number of presenting cities stressed the need to put the income generated by cultural heritage tourism back into heritage by ensuring that the profits generated by cultural heritage are used to conserve heritage. Many stressed the need to develop a ‘profits policy’ to ensure that owners of heritage and stakeholders share the profits.

The Mayor of the World Heritage listed city, Hoi An, listed three lessons that they have learnt that would transcend national boundaries:

a) To preserve heritage and promote sustainable tourism there is a need to recognise that each city has specific cultural values and keep
the unique values of each city. This is their point of difference.

b) In order to manage and conserve heritage, consensus and coordination of state agencies and Governments is needed with a
focus on the roles of managers, researchers and local people. There is a need to link and coordinate.

c) In order to have good management of heritage places, there is a strong need to improve international cooperation and have shared experiences.

What have we learnt?

  • The cementing of the understanding that intangible heritage is key to a community’s identity and we can learn from this.
    There is a real need to connect with our intangible heritage at all levels and apart from a number of other benefits, this can strengthen our capacity to build our cultural heritage tourism market, which has been the case in a number of the countries that presented.
    Another intangible heritage area discussed on a number of occasions was traditional trade skills and the loss of these skills which puts heritage at risk. There is clearly a need for trades skills to be documented and preserved - that was almost universally identified.


  • The move to engage youth was highly successful and enlightening. Ms Fagan attended the youth forums that were running concurrently with the other sessions at the conference and was encouraged to hear the young people generating fresh ideas regarding heritage preservation. This forum highlighted the potential outcomes of Council taking the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Ballarat's young people in the innovative ways discussed at the conference.


  • The need for holistic and integrated master planning in order for heritage preservation to have a chance and that the values underpinning the master planning is clearly articulated. The importance of leadership, and  consistency and holistic planning which is not only conscious of heritage in decision-making but prioritises heritage, were consistently identified. In each exemplary case study, there were challenges and strong leaders aligned with the heritage values in the master plan.


  • The need for multidisciplinary studies to ensure that the full scope of a site’s heritage and its values are understood. This is particularly the case in making sure that the social history of industrial sites is understood and included in interpretation and capturing the intangible heritage associated with industrial technology. In other words, who worked on the site, what did they do, what were the consequences of their work, what social attributes characterised their work and lives away from work?


  • Most case studies revealed how important the role of a University has been in ensuring the depth and rigour of research to underpin planning and protection.


  • Community driven festivals are an essential part of ensuring that intangible values of a community and culture are preserved.


  • Emergency Management is essential for preservation of built heritage.  Japan discussed their loss of cultural heritage through both man-made and natural disasters and the history of how fire and emergency management has been embedded in their culture. They highlighted the community involvement in fire prevention for cultural heritage.


  • World Heritage listing has been both a blessing and a challenge for  Vietnam. In countries such as Vietnam, World Heritage listing is a way to increase the community’s standard of living and it preserves a significant  part of their culture and cultural heritage. It does this, however, at the  detriment of other areas of cultural heritage which are seen to be neglected.