The experiences of regional Australia are unique. This issue of M/C Journal solidifies some of the understandings of the experiences of living, working, creating, researching or thinking in, or through, regional Australia. Our work explores regional cultural constructions of these places, spaces, and identities, as well as of the communities that breathe life into these landscapes, whilst also bringing into question relations between the regional, the local, and the global. The contributions to this issue have all worked to investigate sites of collaboration and innovation, to tell stories about diverse communities, and cultural centres in addition to sites of hardship, innovation, and resilience.
Moreover, regional Australia has often been marginalised and routinely activated as a symbol of what it means to live in the Great South Land, thus these places are often situated in the shadows of major metropolitan areas. This issue seeks to be a small redress of such acts of marginalisation and activation. Indeed, one of the central purposes of this collection of articles is to privilege regional voices. To this end, the editors have maintained the authorial voices within each piece. Revealed here is a diversity of point of view, of writing styles, and, most importantly, a diversity of scholarly approaches to what we know (and what we might come to know) of ‘regional’ in Australia.
The feature article, from Karen Hall and Patrick Sutczak, takes up ideas of regional Australia through an examination of three site-based creative arts projects in the Tasmanian Midlands, arguing for an understanding of regionality as an accretion of environmental and cultural histories. Steven Pace has written on how a high-bandwidth data network project identified a special challenge for the Mackay region which had traditionally prospered from industries such as coal, sugar, and tourism; two decades later, how does the reality compare with the original vision? Alison Sheridan, Jane O’Sullivan, Josie Fisher, Kerry Dunne, and Wendy Beck have argued, looking at television media, that there is greater cultural diversity and complexity in regional towns and cities than portrayed in popular programming that often focus on landscapes and resilient communities, or on the lifestyle benefits of living in a regional area.
Damien Webb and Rachel Franks have explored the institutional collecting of stories vital to the culture and knowledge of Aboriginal Australians and how such stories, generated by colonists, can be shared—across metropolitan and regional locations—with Indigenous communities through meaningful collaboration. Robin Ryan, with Uncle Ossie Cruse, has discussed Koori culture in New South Wales and the value of bringing together emerging regional artists, national headline performers of music, dance, and poetry, complemented by art, craft, culinary, language, and performing arts demonstrations. Terry Eyssens has also looked carefully at Indigenous issues and argues that the Australian colonial project has been to convert the entire continent into a region of Europe, in the process he has challenged readers to see the spaces they inhabit in a new way.
In highlighting a collaboration between the Bonegilla Migrant Experience site, the Albury LibraryMuseum, and Charles Sturt University, Jessie Lymn has considered the role of regional libraries and museums in collecting, preserving, and making accessible the history of migrant communities. Alison Wishart has also looked at the cultural sector through the lens of the important issue of training and ways to connect the staff and volunteers of galleries, libraries, archives, and museums in regional areas to low-cost professional development and networking opportunities. Ellen Forsyth has investigated how local studies collections in public libraries can help people navigate the various experiences of regional Australia, paying particular attention to how this discovery work can be done onsite and online.
Patrick West has examined how the concept of the regional is tied to ideas of well-being through the lens of domestic violence in Tony Birch’s short story “The Red House”. Creativity is central to Susie Elliott’s article which draws on her work on the social, economic, and local conditions that can support art practices, this research highlights alternative ways to live well while entering into the shared space of cultural production. We bookend this issue with another piece of scholarship from Tasmania. The notion of regional has been expanded here by Hanne Nielsen, Chloe Lucas, and Elizabeth Leane with their investigation into Antarctica and how this polar cap has been conceptualised as a region and what that might mean for people in this southern-most state of Australia.
Our sincere thanks to the members of the Advisory Board of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) for encouraging us in this project. The ACHRC supports two Member Initiatives: Humanities in the Regions; and Humanities in Cultural Institutions. The Humanities in the Regions Member Initiative, established in 2014, seeks to promote Humanities-based research in regional areas across Australia.
We thank our enthusiastic contributors, those who gave their expertise and time in the blind peer review process, and Axel Bruns.