Global: Footscray since 1945 has been a place that has undergone a series of dramatic transformations. From an essentially second and third generation, British descended suburb shaped by factory work and relative isolation it became a point of transnational migration and community building. In the first waves Southern and Eastern European immigrants came to work in local industrial plants. Some transformed local churches and community activities whilst others began to diversify the local shopping centre. After 1975 Footscray became a node in one of the great diasporas of the 20th century – that of Vietnamese migrants. Since the 21st century, refugee resettlement has brought a new and more diverse range of people to Footscray. The centre of Footscray then, in its people, its commercial and community life has registered all of the key demographic movements of the last sixty years. This small locality is one of a series of nodes in western cities that demonstrate in different ways, changing character of borders and nations. Footscray research will track these chronological successions, query their character and transformative power and suggest ways in which this history of migration can shape the future of the locality- and of similar locales in other western cities.
Local: Footscray’s immigrant and industrial experiences have created a special locality. Footscray is a place recognised through a number of Melbourne ethnic and social networks. The attachment to locality within and between ethnic groups presents a concise case through which to explore the nature of locality and micro-placed identities. The layers of language groups, religious and social structures, commercial and political networks and their expression in physical form provide a significant case study for exploring ethnic psychology and communal identity within a critical urban setting. Governing this process is the changing nature of local marketemployment, industrial structures and the beginnings of class difference and gentrification. Any assessment of the locality then must attend to issues of power, inequality and marginalisation of immigrant and locally-born. The diachrony of Footscray can be queried by reference to the global chronology set out above.
Research Skills Training Footscray provides a concise framework in which research skills in urban political and environmental processes can be explored. It allows an ethnographic reading of migration and related patterns of mobility. For staff and students an exploration of Footscray opens up a manageable but expansive research locus.
Community Connections. Victoria University and its predecessor in Footscray Institute of Technology have both had a long and distinctive engagement with the local community. The university retains this commitment to community and an ongoing relationship with community structures and spokespeople in Footscray ensure that this commitment can be strengthened. It will assist local community projects and at the same time equip students for a broad range of challenges in later professional careers.
Academic connections. By engaging with our immediate vicinity the Footscray research allows us to build national and international connections with researchers in other universities who are exploring very similar but to a degree differentiated projects about neighbourhood migration and social change. This project we believe can bring a distinctive ‘Southern Hemisphere’ perspective to these issues, thus escaping the tendency to seek out processes which simply mirror those already discovered in cities of Europe and North America.
The university in the locality. As the university expands its built footprint within and around the hub of Footscray CBD there needs to be an ongoing assessment of the implications of this project in urban renewal. Our project can bring to this work of building and social reconstruction a measured and constantly updated reflection, derived from ongoing research and a long historical association with the locality of Footscray.