Social transformation

Inland Australia is a space of movement and flows, not just settlement.

Inland Australia shapes and is shaped by social transformations over the course of its long history.

The movement of peoples and communities has impacted the land and environment just as much as the resources and land can dictate the lives of those living amongst it. Aboriginal people, migrants, grey nomads, itinerant workers, musicians, artists and even universities move into and out of and through this region, coming from near and far.

Reaching from the ancient past and speaking to pressing contemporary issues, this research area seeks to explore and understand ‘rurality’ and how rural communities can be supported to thrive and be resilient.

Current projects

Funded by the Australian Research Council, this project explores how people and communities have lived through and managed drought over time and in different regions of Victoria and their NSW borderlands: Mildura, Bendigo, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton. We look at the meanings and experiences of drought and aim to expand our knowledge of how we can better adapt to the environments on which we depend.

We explore the historic, artistic, cultural and scientific aspects of past and present droughts, as well as media coverage of these events. In particular, we will focus on four droughts: those of Federation (1895–1903), World War II (1937–1945), the Millennium (1997–2009), and the recent drought (2017–2020).

The project brings together a number of our centre researchers including:

What do local stakeholders think about the role of migration to the region and its interruption by the pandemic? This project between Assc Prof Anthony Moran and Dr Martina Boese investigates perspectives of regional stakeholders in the Sunraysia Mallee region (Mildura, Robinvale and Swan Hill) on migrant labour demands, experiences of migrants in the community and responses to labour shortages.

This interview-based project by Dr Martina Boese explores backpackers’ experiences in horticulture to assess how employment conditions in Australian farms have changed in the aftermath of interrupted migration through the pandemic and recent changes in employment and migration regulations.

This project unites several initiatives between La Trobe researchers, Yung Balug people, the Dja Dja Wurrung Womens Knowledge Group and the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. There is ongoing reciprocity of knowledge between Yung Balug, the Women’s Knowledge Group and LTU researchers about Djandak (country), Gatjin (water) and Wi (fire), and how this relates to the cultural landscape and its resources on Yung Balug Country west of Bendigo, Victoria.

The research brings together Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and modern scientific approaches to better understand how access to water and the use of fire have shaped land use, the availability of food plants like yams and lilies, and the availability of fibre plants like cumbungi. We are developing an archaeological record for Yung Balug Country that spans the entirety of human history in Australia, from deep time, the recent past, to the present day. This new knowledge is helping to empower Dja Dja Wurrung women to actively care for Country for the first time since colonisation. It will also provide the basis for achieving the Yung Balug Clan’s long-term goals in education, tourism, and self-determination.

The project is funded in part by the ARC Special Research Initiative Grant SR200200357 Fire, Flood and Food: People and Landscape Change in Northern Victoria

Recent projects

This project investigated the socio-economic situation of Pacific people living in the Mildura/Robinvale area of Victoria. It explored how different immigration statuses impacted access to public services, interactions within and across ethnic groups and trans-local and translational practices. This project shed new light on Australian regional migration and brought marginalised regional population into discussions on migration and transnationalism.

This project was led by

  • Helen Lee
  • Makiko Nishitani
  • Partner Investigator Mr Dean Wickham and,
  • Executive Officer of Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council.

Australian Research Council Linkage Grant LP150100385 ($189,634) 2015-2019.

This report explored how people from disadvantaged communities experience the game of chance, bingo, and how harms can be minimised for individuals and communities. The report presents findings of a qualitative study examining the experience and impact of bingo on three Victorian communities where the game is relatively popular and economic and social disadvantage are common. These included: Aboriginal people in Gippsland and East Gippsland, Pacific migrants in Sunraysia and older people with fixed incomes in Melbourne. This project was led by Sarah MacLean and involved:

  • Helen Lee
  • Mary Whiteside
  • Kathleen Maltzahn and,
  • John Cox.

This project is linked to a Master’s thesis by Kathleen Maltzahn, supervised by Helen Lee, which has just been submitted.

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation Grants for Gambling Research ($199,803) 2018-19. Lucky for some: bingo in Victoria.

In collaboration with the Pacific Islander Network and Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council, the project team built a website that contains collated narrative interviews with young Pacific professionals. The site documents show people have navigated various career paths in a range of industries (e.g. medicine, film and tv, publishing, carpentry, engineering and law). The result was a collection of online resources for community members.

This project was funded by the Scanlon Foundation and led by