Scratch the surface of all of us and you’ll find a lineage that is complex and fascinating. Our ancestry, variously from a wide range of nationalities, is today what makes us a multicultural country, one that has been the envy of the world, but of late seems to be struggling to accept others, questions their status and forgets the lessons of the past.
My era was of the post war immigration where so many of my school mates came from countries where war displaced them and they bravely sought a new home far from the aftermath. It was a giant learning curve for all of us but I treasure the memories and love the ‘aussification’ thrust upon those pale skinned Europeans that leveled the playing field and taught us all so much.
I was technically a boat person. Not born here but with Australian parents who of course were a mix of all manner of genes. And that’s as it is for all of us except those first Australians.
To celebrate that magic mix, the diversity and the stories behind the faces there has been for some years an effort to have a significant memorial for that immigration. Initially it was for a bridge across the lake but that was not to be but now there is a piece of land set aside in the Parliamentary triangle close to the National Archives of Australia to build it. Patron of the re-invigorated Immigration Place Australia (IPA) organisation is Vince Sorrenti, who has accepted the role as an architect – I bet you didn’t know that – and of course as an Australian of Italian heritage bringing a new sense of enthusiasm and can do to this project.
IPA is asking for expressions of interest from which a select group will be asked to submit a formal design. And there’s prize money for this too with design teams selected receiving $8000 and the winner an extra $5,000. All was revealed at a launch in the Menzies Room at the National Archives of Australia – his daughter Heather Henderson present for the occasion – and launching not just the design competition but the website for all information.
Among the judges and on the board of IPA, is a quiet man of extraordinary talent, Imants Tillers, who I’m prepared to say is among the most significant contemporary artists in Australia, who is Australian born of Latvian parents. His work, ‘Terra incognita’, prominently at the entrance to Gandel Hall at the National Gallery of Australia, references the work of Emily Kame Kngwarreye and features the Aboriginal place names used before we came in our boats and planes. And that might be just the right kind of inspiration for this design competition, knowing where we’ve come from and whose land it is and how to make it harmonious for us all. Information at www.immigrationplace.com.au