Tom Corcoran

Heritage Artisan

Bio-cultural & Cultural Heritage Conservationist

Humanitarian & Development Specialist

Born in Ireland, Tom's family migrated to Australia in 1969 where he grew up in small rural town of Maitland.  Here he qualifying as a cultural heritage specialist while worked across eastern Australia with SR Horder.  Tom later took up a position in the Myall Lakes National Parks, NSW, a coastal diversity hotspot, Ramsar site, and home to the Worimi indigenous community.  He has spent more than three decades working on cultural heritage reconstruction, restoration and bio-cultural heritage projects across the globe. Tom combines his traditional artisanal skills with his community based approach, working in the broader environment across humanitarian and development fields. From working with minorities, indigenous and traditional people in remote locations on bio-cultural, intangible and tangible conservation Tom has developed an holistic view of heritage and traditional crafts their links to the past present and future.  Complimenting his core work in conservation Tom holds degrees in Environmental Resource Management from University College Dublin (UCD) and International Development from University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland. His Doctoral research was centred of the "Cultural Heritage of the Displaced" a cross-discipline study under the "Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage (IIICH) and the Department for International Development (IDD) at the University of Birmingham United Kingdom.  His research took on an ethnographic exploration of the cultural heritage of displaced minorities in Bangladesh Pakistan and Ireland.  Beyond this his international work has taken him from northern Madagascar to the quarries of Carrara and Tunisia to working on heritage with stateless Rohingya fishing communities in Karachi. His project experience spans from Australia to Afghanistan, AlgeriaBangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, France, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Korea, Madagascar, Pakistan, Portugal, Spain, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda  and the United States.

Born in Ireland, Tom grew up in Australia where began his work in the field of cultural heritage across the Hunter Valley, NSW.  After a brief period of work in the National Parks in Central Australia, he began work in one of Australia's most diverse Protected Areas, the Myall Lakes National Park, NSW.  Tom spent seven years working across this highly diverse coastal region that encompasses a spectacular series of fresh-brackish water ways, an Internationally protected Ramsar wetlands, literal rainforest, dune systems and coastal Islands.  More notably, the region is the traditional home of the Worimi Guri (Aboriginal) people and contains a wide variety of traditional heritage and song-lines.  

 

The Worimi People of the temperate east (baara) coast (mulumun), posses a rich and high level of traditional teachings, knowledge and skills particularly around the water. For generations, older traditional people have imparted their knowledge onto select younger (guurumul) community members. This was done to preserve their hunting (giribal) knowledge, cultural understanding, protecting their way of life for future generations1.

 

Tom's cultural heritage experience was developed through his own artisanal family heritage, his father, a gifted artisan french polisher and painter, his grandfather a carpenter. He studied primarily under the tutelage of artisan and sculptors and ecclesiastical masons such as Sydney Horder, David James and to Guri heritage educator and traditional elders such as Steve Brereton, linking cultural heritage to the bio-cultural fields through mentors such as renowned naturalists the George Hillman and Densey Clyne.  Tom also undertook a variety of projects as a research assistant with the NSW National Parks and the Australian Museum of Natural History. He also credits much of his ethnographic learning to his childhood travels across the Islands of Indonesia that gifted him with a deep fascination for traditional ways of life, the manifestations of sacred heritage through stone and wood and the value of retaining traditional ways of knowing and seeing the world.

In the late 1990s Tom set up base in Ireland engaging with his own Celtic culture and heritage while working internationally on a variety of cultural heritage projects that took him deeper into the field of cultural heritage conservation, ethnographic engagement and working with traditional communities and displaced minorities.  In 2009 Tom received the Ford Award for his projects with Conservation through Poverty Alleviation International (CPALI) and the Betsimisaraka people of the Makira Protected Area in Northern Madagascar. Following this, he worked in Jordan as an Environmental Adviser for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) before being selected by the National Geographic Society as a funded Global Explorer a link that he maintains with the National Geographic Society today. With National Geographic he initially worked with traditional brick makers in Padang improving traditional methods and researching the quality of materials.  Through this he expanded the links from brick making to reducing deforestation through alternative fuels to developing community led conservation of the Garaman Protected Area in Sumatra Barat.  In 2015, Tom and his team were awarded the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) award for their work on traditional Minang Kabau cultural heritage reducing deforestation and wildlife poaching in Sumatra.  

 

Tom works in remote and difficult environments from conflict and refugee crisis to earthquake and natural disaster as he continues to engaging in cultural heritage recovery, reconstruction, research, developing heritage craft, artisanal skills and bio-cultural conservation projects with communities and agencies.  Tom works regularly with United Nations Agencies, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Turquoise Mountain Trust, Craft Stories, The Artisanal Recovery Project and the Norwegian Refugee Council among numerous others.  Tom is currently based in Pakistan and lives with his wife Donna, a committed Humanitarian Aid worker with UNHCR Pakistan.   

https://parksaustralia.gov.au/marine/pub/worimi-artworks-booklet.pdf

https://www.mantawarugirambit.com.au/collection.html

https://humaadnan.com/craft-stories.html

https://terralingua.org/langscape_articles/biocultural-diversity-conservation-tourism-the-gamaran-protected-forest-west-sumatra-indonesia/

Client List

  • National Geographic Society (NGS)

  • Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Afghanistan

  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

  • Conservation through Poverty Alleviation Madagascar CPALI)

  • Build Change Indonesia (BCI)

  • USAID Jakarta Indonesia

  • European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA)

  • EXPED Outdoor Equipment (Sponsorship)

  • Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland (DFA)

  • Cerdas Linkungan Indonesia, Sumatra, Indonesia

  • Padang Department of Tourism, Sumatra, Indonesia

  • Australian Natural History Museum, Sydney (Broughton Island)

  • Dept of Heritage, National Park & Wildlife NSW, Australia

  • Myall Lakes Eco-Tourism Resort NSW Australia

  • Ethical Development Action Cork Ireland

  • Marmi Graniti Muraglia of Carrara, Italy Projects

  • Stone Management Dublin Ireland

  • Ministry of Public Works – NSW Australia

  • Ministry of Public works / Bhutan / Indonesia / Ireland

  • Smith & Kennedy Architects International Projects

  • Artisans Revival