Heavy Industry

Associate Prof. Mirjana Lozanovska
Led by Associate Prof. Mirjana Lozanovska, Deakin University.

Heavy industry cemented Port Kembla’s identity as one of Australia’s heavy industry sites in the early twentieth century, but in 1947, a decade after BHP acquired AIS (Australian Iron and Steel), a new era of growth was built on migrant industrial labour (Eklund 2002). The steelworks employed thousands of assisted migrants through formal (UK, Malta (1948), The Netherlands (1951), Italy (1951), West Germany, Yugoslavia (1967), Turkey (1967) and informal migration agreements; as well as unassisted labour migrants. Commonwealth government or company hostels run by AIS  Karingal and Steelhaven hostels- men only accommodation), and a host of accommodation options -Boarding Houses, House flats, shared housing, garages and sheds, tents and caravans, provide a picture of the complexity of industrial transformation to Australian rural and regional landscapes. The pathways of non-English speaking assisted migrants to Port Kembla/Wollongong were via the Bonegilla reception and training centre in Victoria, Bathurst or Greta, or the holding centre at Scheyville, each a converted army camp (Thom and Walker 2007). Many settled for the long term. The focus is on the ‘space of labour’ as a way to understand industrial architecture contributing this perspective of the work and labour to the narratives of modernisation. This case study examines the industrial transformation of place as multiscalar, including the housing strategies of labour migrants, the trans-national shaping of communal environments and retail streets, and inscriptions into the industrial environments. Port Kembla is a town built on industrial labour but linked to immigration, its early local architectural character was radically altered. Distinct from dominant capital-city research, Port Kembla provides a continuing concentrated site of industry, immigration and growth, a critical lens of architecture for understanding the last decades of the White Australia policy [Archives:NAA- Canberra and Melbourne, BHP Archives].