Port Kembla BHP Steelworks, Australia: Post-War Immigrant Histories of Architecture, Urbanism and Heritage
November 25 to November 27, 2022
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Following BHP Steelworks redundancies in the 1980s and 1990s, shops, banks, service storefronts, even Public Bars, which lined Wentworth Street in Port Kembla, have for decades vacated the premises such that in 2019, except for the site of the Red Point Artists and café the scene was of an abandoned place. Interviews with participants that had worked at the Steelworks tell of a vibrant, busy and crowded Wentworth Street in the post-war period, lined with immigrant businesses and enterprises. This paper will approach the urbanism of Wentworth Street and Port Kembla from the lens of post-war immigrant history. It argues that such a lens reveals the links between the urbanism of Wentworth Street, its transition to vibrant culture and to neglected street, directly to the Port Kembla BHP Steelworks.
The paper explores this immigrant perspective in two ways, firstly outlining a history of transnationalism and transculturalism resulting from the sheer numbers of immigrants to Port Kembla; and secondly, looking at that urban environment via the lens of works by immigrant cultural producers, the children of immigrant workers at the Steelworks.