Cosmopolitan place making in Australia: Immigrant minorities and the built environment in cities, regional and rural areas

Jock Collins, Branka Krivokapic-Skoko, Kirrily Jordan, Hurriyet Babacan, Narayan Gopalkrishnan

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book investigates the historical and contemporary impact of minority ethnic communities on the built and social environment in Australian cities, rural and regional areas. Australia is one of the great countries of settler immigration, with more immigrants than most other nations: indeed, only Switzerland and Luxembourg have a higher immigrant share of the population among western nations. Most research about immigration looks at the impact of immigrants on the economy (jobs, growth, productivity) and society (crime, conflict, social cohesion). This book presents another take on immigration by looking at how immigrants from minority backgrounds have transformed the built environment of the suburbs, towns and neighbourhoods where they settle – that is, changed the way that Australian cities, suburbs and towns look – while at the same time changing the social landscape of Australian society. Immigrants are transformed by the experience of settling in a new society and, in turn, transform the places that become their new homes, particularly evident in the places and spaces created by immigrant communities for private or community use. The overall objective of this book is to record the impact of ethnic minorities on the built environment in Australian cities, rural and regional areas and to investigate the (changing) social uses of this ethnic heritage. Here the focus is on minority immigrant communities. By this we mean those immigrants who come from English-speaking western societies, particularly the British and Irish colonial immigration – non-Anglo-Celtic immigrants – who have dominated Australian immigration intakes, until recent decades, for over two centuries and still arrive in Australia in large numbers. While the concept of minority immigrant communities is not without problems – many immigrants born in the UK, for example, may have Asian or West Indian or other ethnic and cultural heritage and be Muslim, Hindu or from other non-Christian religious background – this approach permits the gaze of our study to focus on a relatively overlooked and increasingly-important domain of immigrant place making. But at the same time the society into which new immigrants settle is a post-colonial society, with a long history of Indigenous settlement prior to subsequent waves of immigration. The cosmopolitan perspective adopted for this book means that we situate the minority migrant presence within the Indigenous and Anglo-Celtic immigrants communities of all Australian places and spaces.

In the cities we investigate what we call ethnic precincts such as Chinatown as a clustered suburban form of Australia’s minority immigrant community heritage. While most immigrants settle in Australia’s large cities, we also wanted to look at the places and spaces they create Australia’s rural and regional areas. However, place making is more than constructing or converting buildings for private or community use by new immigrant communities. It is much more than architecture or heritage. It is also about the social interactions that occur within these places. In both the Australian cities and the ‘bush’ (an Australian colloquial term for non-metropolitan dwellers) we wanted to investigate how the places built or developed by minority ethnic communities become an integral part of the lives of peoples of diverse Indigenous and ethnic backgrounds of Australian cities, rural and regional areas.

Because Australian immigration is perhaps Australia’s most contentious area of public policy, the immigrant presence in Australian metropolitan and regional cities and rural towns is also often contentious. This is probably most evident in the protests to proposals of Australia’s Islamic communities – many of them new immigrants from a minority background – for building new Mosques in suburbs and regional towns. Indeed, most opposition to the place making of immigrant minorities relates to buildings used for religious purposes. The focus on the impact of minority ethnic communities on the built environment is partly because it is most contested but also because non-Anglo-Celtic immigration is more visibly different to that of British and Irish immigration. Australia has a long history of formal and informal racism that shapes both immigration policy and the reception of immigrant minority communities. This racism is similar but different to ways that the initial waves of British and Irish immigrants reacted to the Indigenous communities who were living here. Often the community and private buildings constructed by new immigrants provide a safe place where immigrant communities can live and socialise, but over time often become places and spaces for social interaction of people in the neighbourhood from very diverse cultural backgrounds.

In order to do study the impact of minority ethnic communities on the built environment we focus our attention on three Australia states - New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland – and take as case studies suburban, regional and rural sites in each state. We then investigate how the (changing) immigrant presence led to changes in the built environment in the form of new buildings or the repurposing of existing buildings. There are a number of questions to investigate here: how and why were each of the sites developed? What changes have there been in the social uses of these buildings, spaces and places over time? What was the resulting interaction with local and national regulatory regimes and the responses by other communities in the neighbourhood? The case studies offer numerous examples in which places built and used by non-Anglo-Celtic immigrants and their descendants have become sites of informalised interethnic exchange and interaction. In reflecting on each site’s history, social use and role in intercultural exchange, we show the extent to which non-Anglo-Celtic immigrant minorities have literally changed the face of Australian neighbourhoods – both physically and socially. As such, the places and spaces built by or transformed by these immigrants’ challenge narratives of ‘Australianness’ that represent multicultural place-making as a foreign incursion into an otherwise Anglo-Celtic landscape. They are physical embodiment of the complex, embedded and sometimes longstanding and contradictory relationships of immigrant minorities within their local communities in neighbourhoods that were also transformed by the immigrant arrivals that displaces Indigenous peoples living there centuries earlier. We hope to better understand the historical and contemporary aspects pf cpsmopolitan place-making in Australia’s rural and urban social landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages407
ISBN (Electronic)9789811580413
ISBN (Print)9789811580406
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Grant Number

  • LP0455640)


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