Company Town

Prof. Anoma Pieris
Led by Prof. Anoma Pieris, The University of Melbourne.

Feted as one of Australia’s great engineering achievements, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme was a frontier for technological advancement and multicultural cohabitation from 1951-1975 (Collis 1990; Powell and Macintyre 2015: 188-96). Employing tens of thousands of post war immigrant workers from thirty different countries, alongside Australian and foreign experts, the network of 16 dams, 8 power or pressure stations, and 12 trans-mountain tunnels transformed the alpine region and was supported by a vast architectural infrastructure of 121 camps and worksites, the creation of new towns and expansion of older townships such as Cooma (the Scheme’s headquarters), Cabramurra and Khancoban, and the inundation and relocation of Adaminaby, Jindabyne and Talbingo. This case study examines this complementary architectural landscape through both local and foreign contracts for housing and facilities (an important feature of its internationalisation) their use of immigrant labour, the housing typologies that evolved, and the reciprocal expansion of local community architectures to accommodate the immigrant influx (Rodwell 1999). Although the region became depopulated once the project was completed in 1975, its social subtext of modernisation through immigrant industry persists in social memory and regional identity, which will be gathered through local histories, memoirs, paintings, songs and interviews (McHugh 1995; Wigmore 1968) [Archives: NAA- Canberra and Sydney, Correspondence files: Department of Post War Reconstruction, Prime Ministers Department; AS Brown Reference Collection – Department of Works and Housing, Adaminaby Snowy Scheme Museum records and records of Architon Construction Co., Pasotti, Hutchison Bros and Van Dyke, Thiess Bros, Brown and Root].