Cold War Infrastructure

Prof. Anoma Pieris
Led by Associate Prof. Andrew Saniga, The University of Melbourne.

The Anglo-Australian joint project to test and develop long range weapons commenced in 1947 and was a key post-war project of the Department of Defence reaching a peak in the 1970s and 1980s. As a case study it consists of two linked components both involving immigrant workers: the construction of the rocket range and its associated facilities (eg launch pads) within the Woomera Prohibited Area; and, the design, construction and management Woomera Village approximately 500 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. The village was intended to service workers and scientists involved in the cold-war military project to develop and test military hardware and later a whole range of associated projects. The Baltic migrants consisted of roughly 18 percent of the workforce (Morton 1989: 128-129) but were significant in enabling the project in a time of labour shortage. Balts were engaged in everything from mixing concrete to drafting plans, the tangible evidence of their contribution awaits appraisal in the form of design and planning ideas, physical sites, and the socio-cultural and political histories associated with Cold War activity in Australia. Their origins in war-torn Europe, perceptions of communist association, and involvement in a project that was deeply linked to international politics and relations, and eventual assimilation and acceptance, provides an important juncture in a critical history yet to be carefully examined (Persian 2017). This case study internationalises the project by exploring post war collaboration between Britain and Australia through archival research and meetings in the UK. [Archives: NAA- Canberra and Adelaide, Archives and central registry, Defence Research Centre, Salisbury, South Australia; Woomera archives, Administrative Building at the Technical Area in Woomera and NAA- Department of the Army and Department of Defence records on town planning and public works at Woomera; and UK - Department of Defence archives and National Archives]