Catching up with last year’s award recipients: All Things Bukit Brown

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It has been almost a year since 10 individuals and organisations who made major contributions to the growth of civil society in Singapore in the last three years were honoured at the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards 2014, SAA. As we draw close to this year’s award ceremony on 31 July 2015, we caught up with some of last year’s recipients to find out how being recognised by the SAA has made an impact on their advocacy and what more they would like to see to enhance advocacy efforts.

In the second of the series, we feature All Things Bukit Brown, a heritage preservation movement spearheaded by Catherine Lim and Claire Leow.

How has winning the award made a difference to your advocacy work?

For All Things Bukit Brown, who received the recognition on behalf of the community it has been been and continues to be our beacon of support and encouragement, so much so that we did not hesitate when asked to serve on this year’s organising committee for SAA 2015. Through the award, we have met a diversity of people in civil society who have invested and done far more than we have done, who continue to inspire us and for whom we also hope we can share our experiences. Advocacy is sometimes perceived as polarising on society. In our experience we have encountered objections to saving a cemetery but we are hard pressed to find disagreement that our heritage, our habitat and our history is not important and not worthy of saving. That is our underlying message and mission, that Bukit Brown is more than a cemetery and it is our challenge to continue to find ways on how to connect the people to this fact.

Can you share what new initiatives you have going forward?

We have invested our energies in the last 3 years since we started walking the ground and conducting guided walks, organising talks, giving presentations to schools and government organisations and launched 2 major exhibitions on Bukit Brown. Our guided walks will of course continue but the time is ripe for us to publish a book and this year being the 70th year of the Liberation of Singapore from Japanese Occupation, we will do this. The center piece of the book will be the stories shared with us by descendants who have generously shared their family stories and experiences of WW 2. Bukit Brown is not just the backdrop for the stories. Not many are aware it remains the only cemetery where the war dead – be they civilians or members of the volunteer corps – are buried in situ. It was also one of the last battlefields before Singapore fell. If not for the present construction to build an 8 lane highway across it, it would have been one of the rare battleground sites for WW 2 left in the world almost intact. We may have lost this battlefield, but we are determined not to lose the stories of courage and sacrifice that still mark this landscape and we hope in this way to honour our pioneers.

Thank you Catherine and Claire!

You can read more about All Things Bukit Brown on their website, bukitbrown.com.