|Rich Rewards: Cultural Diversity and Heritage Practice|
4.1 Background to Community Consultation
Heritage practices throughout the cultural network increasingly draw on community consultation as a guide and resource. This reflects an approach to heritage practice that values broad participation and cooperative strategies.
In the case of built heritage, for example, recent changes of direction have shifted away from protecting items under threat to a more comprehensive approach, directed toward recognising and listing the heritage that the community values.
4.2 Project Aims
The aims of the pilot program were threefold:
The program was undertaken by a consultant and managed with the NSW Heritage Office over a fifteen-week period.
The general approach to holding the program as a whole is illustrated in more detail in the draft guidelines, however it can be described in a number of stages
4.4 Site Selection
Identifying suitably diverse communities was the primary focus in selection of the three workshop locations. This diversity represents a broad range of groups within the community in addition to a range of sources and periods of migration.
Diversity and contrast across the pilot program was also an important consideration. Overall the selection represents a range of communities across the state. To allow for the greatest depth in results and experiences, consideration was given to contrast in economic pursuits, social and cultural infrastructures and geographical landscapes.
Site selection was followed by research. This had two aims. Research created a profile of the ethnic and cultural organisations living in each workshop location. Placing migration as a central theme of a local history was the focus of the second aspect of the research. This provided a framework for understanding the community and interpreting the workshops. It also provided information on ethnic communities that had an historical presence in the community.
4.6 Contacting Communities and Relationship Building
To ensure that a sense of trust and reciprocity was established prior to the workshops, identification and research were followed by a period of relationship building with participants.
Initial invitations to the workshops were followed up with phone calls to ensure that people understood the aims of the workshop, to answer questions and find solutions to any concerns.
While this process is very rewarding it is very time intensive. The workshops themselves would have developed even broader participation had there been more time to under- take this role. This initial contact revealed very significant variations in concepts, uses and understandings of heritage across and within communities. This re-enforced the importance of ensuring that communities understood the goals of the day and the importance of protecting their heritage.
4.7 Resistance to Diversity
The period prior to the workshop also provided an opportunity to deal with resistance to culturally diverse heritage practices. In the case of the workshops resistance was based on:
4.8 The Workshops - A Brief Overview
In the case of the pilot program, the workshops in Orange, Broken Hill and Albury were organised by the Heritage Office of New South Wales with output being directed towards the local council to update the local heritage studies. The workshops however, have the potential for a broad output through the development of new partnerships across the cultural network.
Each of the three workshops was held over a one-day period in a central location within the town. Representatives of ethnic communities attended the workshops along with members of cultural organisations. The key features of the workshops were
The main advantages of this process were its ability to adapt to the characteristics of the community and the make-up of the audience on the day. The accessibility of the photography as an identification tool put participants at ease. As all participants took part in the photography session it diminished distinctions and hierarchies between 'heritage experts' and the community. This accessible structure provided a platform on which ethnic communities could begin to build skills. It also raised awareness of and interest in culturally diverse heritage practices for participants from the cultural community.
4.9 Follow up
Follow-up to date has varied form community to community. In Albury, the enthusiasm of the ethnic communities has led to a second visit where a heritage committee was formed. This committee will act as a point of consultation between the cultural network and ethnic communities in all relevant heritage decisions. In addition it will form a 'driver' for new, culturally diverse heritage initiatives within the existing cultural network of Albury-Wodonga. The formation of the working party has meant that follow-up for Albury has included a second visit. Broken Hill and Orange have received reports on the workshops and discussions have been initiated with a range of participants about potential, ongoing partnerships and initiatives.
This is the Buddhist Temple of the Albury-Wodonga Laotian community. Located behind a large wall the temple is not visible from the street and many people had no idea of its existence. The significance of the temple extends far beyond its walls. The Thai Lotus Restaurant (Below) supports the temple in traditional Buddhist practice by supplying food to the monks.
The temple illustrates a strong association with place, evident to the broader community, created by one community. Arriving in Albury-Wodonga as refugees at the conclusion of the Vietnam War the community have achieved this in a remarkably short period of time.
4.10 The media
Each of the workshops generated local media interest. The media strategy can generally be described as
A range of possible outputs for culturally diverse heritage practices, based on community consultation, were identified in the final sessions of the workshops. These are listed below. Each of the communities is pursuing one or more of these initiatives at varying rates. The initiatives support a diverse range of heritage concepts, items and places including built heritage, natural and moveable. Each of these approaches could inform and enrich the other.
Museums and Galleries
Regionally based museums and galleries could adopt the workshop guidelines as a method for establishing a register of collections that relates cultural diversity. The workshop would provide photographs of important items as well as information and personal testimony as to their significance. The register could become a resource for ensuring that cultural diversity features all exhibitions, or for developing initiatives that relate to a specific community. It would also be a means by which movable heritage items could be recorded in the community. For ethnic communities this would have the very significant flow-on effect of acknowledging and recognising the heritage items that are important to them. In turn this would support greater awareness and conservation of the items.
The guidelines have application as a method for identifying heritage places and items for community based heritage studies. This could lead to eventual listings and a more comprehensive understanding of heritage places. As an approach for identifying place the guidelines have application in other networks that engage in heritage at a rural and regional level, including the National Trust and Historical Societies.
At both Orange and Broken Hill local studies librarians have indicated a willingness to ensure that cultural diversity is given greater significance in local research programs. A range of areas are currently being explored including public programs, records collections and school materials. It is anticipated that the guidelines could be used to identify for use by libraries, photographs, archival records, movable heritage items, film and a range of ephemeral items that are important to the community and tell significant chapters in the development of the town or region.
The guidelines would work equally well as a means for generating a history project. The photographs become a rich prompt for memory, providing an important starting point for an oral history. The photographs themselves provide a rich basis for a cultural or social history that could incorporate themes such as migration, community, mobility, work, place, family and traditions.
Building these partnerships has been a significant outcome for the project. Through the workshops many participants from ethnic backgrounds indicated a desire to tell their story through their heritage. They expressed, however uncertainty about how to participate in the cultural sector. Meanwhile participants from the cultural sector indicated that they had not been aware of the potential for culturally diverse heritage practices, or some of the ways it could be undertaken. Others were unaware of the diversity within their communities. These newly initiated partnerships represent an important resource for diverse, community driven heritage initiatives
4.13 Approaches to Consultation
The reciprocal character of community consultation provides an effective environment for developing inclusive approaches to cultural diversity in heritage. It proves an opportunity for heritage practitioners to ascertain community views and for the community to develop heritage skills.
All communities and their circumstances will differ. The experiences of the program provided and tested three different approaches to consultation.
In the case of Albury a broad cross-cultural approach to the workshop was productive and appropriate. The migrant community currently living in Albury is predominantly made up of arrivals from two periods. The first being post World War Two Immigration scheme when many European refugees assigned to the Bonegilla camp settled in the area. Albury - Wodonga's nomination as a Centre for National Growth has generated a second main period of migration, peaking in the mid 1970s.
This situation meant that the ethnic communities in the border towns were well resourced through the Albury-Wodonga Ethnic Communities Council and a Migrant Resource Centre. Through these organisations, in addition to their role in undertaking the triennial Bonegilla Festival, the ethnic communities were experienced at working collectively in a cross-cultural environment.
4.13.2 Broken Hill
The ethnic communities of Broken Hill can largely be traced to the post World War Two-Immigration Scheme. Less than 0.1% of its NESB population, totalling 28 people, have arrived in the area in the period from 1991 - 1996 and the community itself has declined by 18.8% during this same period. This absence of recent renewal has meant that the communities of the area tend to be older and required a more specific focus. The communities, particularly Italian and Yugoslav communities are active in organising community events, however, these generally seem to ethno-specific rather than cross-cultural initiatives.
While a cross-cultural initiative was not inappropriate in Broken Hill, the experience of the workshops suggested that, in some communities it may be more successful to initiate an ethno-specific approach to the workshop. Where communities are elderly or less active, the success of one community's heritage initiatives may be a useful encouragement to become involved in a heritage program. This may also be the case where tensions or incompatibilities across communities exist. A shared experience of migration may not always form a common basis for working together.
At Orange, representatives of its history and heritage network enthusiastically took up the opportunity to attend the workshop at a rate that outweighed the ethnic communities. While this limited the number of items nominated on the day and minimised the opportunity to promote heritage skills among ethnic communities, it did provide a forum to test the effectiveness of the workshop as a means for creating awareness throughout the cultural network.
The Orange workshop had the effect of raising awareness of and sensitivity to ethnic heritage across the network. Responses on the day in addition to follow up contact, has suggested that a past lack of awareness of the community's diversity has presented a barrier to culturally diverse heritage practices. The experience of the workshop has sparked a new interest in culturally diverse heritage as practitioners from a range of backgrounds consider ways in which their programs can incorporate the diversity of the area.
4.14 Summary of the Program
The program was a significant step in developing a heritage identification model for consultation with ethnic communities. The experience of the workshop revealed that ethnic communities are keen for their experiences to be recognised and celebrated through heritage. For ethnic communities, the workshops developed a new awareness of organisations across the cultural network and a range of skills for the identification and assessment of heritage. This has opened the way for more effective access to the cultural network. For members of the cultural network the workshops raised awareness of cultural diversity within the community and provided an experience for developing culturally diverse heritage practices at a local level. Most significantly it introduced many practitioners to the rich rewards of culturally diverse heritage practices, which has led to the development of a range of culturally diverse heritage initiatives. With some further focus these initial gains from stage one should produce sustained, culturally diverse practices in these three locations.
The workshops were an effective way of uncovering previously unrecognised heritage items, such as the Albury Buddhist temple. Another benefit of consultation with ethnic communities is its ability to enrich out understanding of heritage by exposing new layers of meaning. The Albury Railway Station is one example of this. Already recognised as a site of state significance, the station symbolises arrival and the beginning of a new life for the migrants of Albury-Wodonga. A further strength identified is the opportunity to recognise less well-known chapters in Australian History. The gravesite of Jack Sydney Falchi, below, challenges stereotypes of the Australian mining industry to reveal a culturally diverse past and a multicultural face.
The workshops also revealed a number of issues and questions for migration heritage. The range of communities participating in the workshop revealed a diversity of attitudes, perceptions and approaches to heritage across and within communities. From a Chinese perspective, for example, heritage significance is more likely to be understood in terms of ancestors rather than in the more broadly recongised criteria of local, state, or national significance. This is made more complex by the mobile settlement patterns of Chinese migration in Australia. This presents challenges that fall outside the perimeters of this project, for the ways in which heritage is recognised and managed in the network.
A second issue is bound up in the relationship of migration and heritage. The mobile nature of migration itself sometimes makes the establishment of ongoing relationship with place impossible or impractical. Items that have been brought from the old country or objects that easy to move have become, for many migrants, the most poignant expressions of their experience and identity. For other communities migration and its social, cultural and economic implications may have limited the resources available to develop places that are, like the Albury Buddhist temple, strongly identifiable with one group's traditions and customs. As a result houses and parks may host religious ceremony or act as clubs. Recognition of this adaptation is an important aspect of culturally diverse heritage practices.
The workshops also raise questions for the interpretation and management of heritage sites. The scale of the Post World War Two-Immigration Scheme combined with the enormous social, cultural and economic transitions of the period created a range of 'temporary' solutions to housing, managing and employing migrants. As a starting point for a new life, these temporary spaces were identified, by workshop participants, as highly significant. However their temporary nature has meant that many of these sites no longer exist. All three workshops identified places that can best be described as 'monuments to memory'. These were sites where the significant heritage fabric no longer exists to tell the story, however the place itself continues to contain a set of experiences. This raises the question of how to tell the story, in a meaningful way, of migrants experiences' with these temporary places.
The workshops uncovered a range of challenges for heritage practice in addition to new understandings that enrich our understanding of place and community. As planned, stage one has identified clear directions and goals for stage two, which will build on partnerships, skills and initiatives developed in stage one, with the aim of generating sustained, culturally diverse heritage practices in regional and rural New South Wales.
This simple stone illustrates that the face of the Australian mining industry is multicultural.
The Email factory is an important site for many migrants that arrived in Orange in the post WW2 period. Significant as a site of work, contracted migrant labour was central in Email's manufacturing shift from weapons to whitegoods. It is the area that is now the carpar, rather than the factory itsefl, that is of the greatest importance. In the discussion session many migrants recalled how the ' manpower' and materials shortages meant that there was no housing for the migrant workers. As a result the carpark was converted to a not-so-temporary tent city. The photograph below, (A railway siding in Orange) is indicative of the conditions. For many the carpark symbolises the struggles faced on arrival in a new country. The site raises questions for heritage practitioners as to how it tell the story of this experience, in a meaningful way, to the broader community.