Otherness and Cultural Change on Marginal Sites: The Siting and Establishment of Daoist Temples in Australia

Su, Freya | Beynon, David | Krisadawat, Van

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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Otherness relegates newly arrived migrants in Australia to the fringes and periphery of established territories. Whether the land allotted to them is on the outskirts of a town, or within industrial areas of a city, the prevailing attribute of these sites is their low significance and value to the existing population. Then, as migrant communities develop these localities, the identity of such areas is profoundly altered, particularly by the establishment of culturally and socially specific institutions. As examples, this paper draws comparisons between three Daoist temples in Australia: the Guan Di Temple (former Joss House) at Weldborough, Tasmania; the Yiu Ming Temple, in Alexandria, NSW; and the Guan Di Temple, Springvale, Victoria. They represent temples established in the colonial period, in the early years of Australia’s Federation and in the late twentieth century under conditions of governmental multiculturalism respectively.

The paper will not focus so much on these temples as individual buildings, but rather investigate their influences on the urban morphologies of particular times and places, and how tracing these can provide a specific cultural history in relation to architecture and planning practices. Each of these buildings illustrates distinct tactics for occupying environments. These temples demonstrate how marginalised communities have been influential in developing or redeveloping the identities of surrounding areas. They are also illustrative of how the reassertion of marginalised cultural histories can challenge Australia’s planning policies and practices.