Media Release

26 June 2007

Australia celebrates 60 years of contributing to UNESCO's culture of peace

The Australian National Commission for UNESCO, Australia’s focal point for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, yesterday celebrated 60 years of active contribution to the organisation’s work.

“As one of the first nations to become a member of UNESCO in 1947, Australia, through its National Commission works with other member states to build a vision of peace through the dissemination and sharing of knowledge and the promotion and preservation of the world’s heritage and cultural resources,” Ms Susan Pascoe AM, Chair of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO said.

“The National Commission, comprising experts in the fields of education, science, culture and communications provides advice to the government, liaises with organisations and individuals on matters relating to UNESCO and conducts activities in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region in support of UNESCO’s objectives and ideals. It also gives high priority to UNESCO programs in the Pacific,” Ms Pascoe said.

One of the Commission’s recent achievements is to have Australia’s nominations to UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register accepted. Convict records dating from 1788 to 1868 have been added along with the 1906 film “The Story of the Kelly Gang”, the world’s first feature-length film, which has allowed Australia to discover the earliest trace of a beloved myth, part of its collective memory.

The National Commission’s 60th Anniversary was celebrated yesterday with a reception at the Sydney Opera House for representatives from Australian educational, scientific and cultural institutions as well as community groups and prominent members of the community. It was hosted by Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator the Hon. Helen Coonan.

The 60th Anniversary celebration coincided with the meeting of the World Heritage Committee in New Zealand where the listing of the Sydney Opera House under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention is under consideration. Listing would recognise the Sydney Opera House as ranking amongst the world heritage sites of outstanding value to humankind, such as the Taj Mahal, the ancient Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef.

UNESCO Deputy Assistant Director-General, Jim Kulikowski, who is visiting Sydney for the celebrations, toured the Opera House yesterday. The decision on the listing is likely to be finalised this week.

“UNESCO has worked tirelessly to create a global culture of peace over the past six decades, and Australia has sought to ensure that its work remains relevant and effective in a changing world”, Ms Pascoe said.

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