How post-war migration shaped our suburbs: Deakin research

The profound impact of post-war migration on the look and shape of Australian suburbs is explored in a new book by a Deakin architectural researcher.

Associate Professor Mirjana Lozanovska from Deakin University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment said housing built during the influx of European migration from the 1950s onwards often had a distinctive look that set it apart from other homes in the neighbourhood: white, faux-marble pillars and balusters, grand staircases to the front door and a lemon tree in the front lawn.

“In the post-war period in Melbourne, architecture was the reason that ethnicity and multiculturalism was on the agenda for discussion,” Associate Professor Lozanovska said.

“The whole idea of cultural difference emerged in Australia because of the very visual changes that Southern Europeans were making to the built environment.

“The bigger windows and spacious front terraces, lemon and olive trees planted out the front, espresso bars and cafes on the High streets, these icons made the transformation of the city obvious to the majority of people living there.

“These were dramatic transformations to the built environment of the city, very noticeable and often greatly disparaged by the homogeneity of the Anglo-Celtic communities that had resulted from five decades of the White Australia Policy.”

In her book Migrant Housing: Architecture, Dwelling, Migration, to be launched on Friday 2 August, Associate Professor Lozanovska explores how these changes in the background of major cities helped to generate a whole shift in attitude towards migrant groups.

“This book is a culmination of 30 years of research examining the house as the architectural construct in the processes of migration and how architecture mediates human dignity,” Associate Professor Lozanovska said.

“Australia was one of the few places that offered the possibility of permanent residency and citizenship in the post-war period, which is one of the reasons why, despite the huge geographical barrier, it became a desirable place to immigrate to.

“It was because of this distance that the dream of home ownership became so meaningful. It was the only thing that could compensate these migrant groups for the sacrifice they’d made to leave their homeland.

“Even though Southern European migrants had a really difficult time at the start because of the lack of access to loans or finance, their rates of home ownership eventually equalled then surpassed the local, Anglo-Celtic community.”

Associate Professor Lozanovska’s book also considered what happened to those villages, towns and cities the immigrants left behind, using the Macedonian village of Zavoj as a case study.

“Migrant Housing is about both sides of the migration coin: immigration and emigration. It’s not only about cities of immigration like Melbourne, but also about the places of origin and what happens to those places because of emigration,” she said.

Migrant Housing: Architecture, Dwelling, Migration will be launched on Friday 2 August at Deakin Downtown. Full details here.

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