Heritage Making and Migrant Subjects in the Deindustrialising Region of the Latrobe Valley is available online now, and in print from 31 March 2022. Order at: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108919937
In March 2007, in the small deindustrialising town of Morwell in Australia’s south-east, a local group with a post-WWII migrant background launched a public park. In itself, this was not a unique occurrence. The region is dotted with public parks. But this particular space is unique: the Gippsland Immigration Park was conceived, designed, launched and managed by locals who seek to commemorate, memorialise and celebrate migrants and migration to the region of Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley.
In Australia’s largely Anglophone heritage landscape, such a community-initiated migrant heritage space warrants attention. As a multi-form open-air space, the Park is a platform etched with many contested and intertwined histories: it engages directly with circulating narratives around industrialisation, migration, and working lives. And it was created in a context familiar to many Western immigrant-receiving nations: in the wake of privatisation of primary industries and widespread unemployment.
As the former coal-fired powerhouse of the State of Victoria, and a magnet for migrant workers, the Latrobe Valley was acutely affected by socio-economic changes from the late 1980s. The Park therefore presents a unique opportunity to explore migrant subjectivities in the context of historical change. Given the contradictions of recent politics in self-proclaimed multicultural nation-states—and an increasingly heated identity politics that draws on essentialist notions of race and ethnicity—as researchers, it is our task to interrogate the spaces and structures that exist for migrant community groups to voice their own histories of immigration and settlement.
How do communities remember migrant labour in post-industrial places? The case study of the Gippsland Immigration Park offers a means to unpack the Latrobe Valley’s recent industrial and post-industrial history, and to examine the shared and layered community histories of that place in a liberal multicultural nation-state. This is both a migrant and an industrial history.