EXPLORING MIGRANTS’ CONTRIBUTIONS TO AGRICULTURE: THE STORY OF ITALIANS IN THE SUNRAYSIA REGION
Geographical research on human-environment relations has paid minimal attention to cultural diversity, particularly in Australia. Yet migrants make up a large proportion of the Australian population, including in some rural and regional areas. The aim of this thesis is to understand the processes by which migrants negotiate their histories – in particular agricultural knowledges, skills and practices developed in countries of origin – in their post-migration location. It does so through the case of Italian migrants and their descendants in the Sunraysia Region. Employing a mixed methods approach, empirical data was sourced through semistructured interviews and farm/garden tours. In seeking to explain Italians’ considerable influence over agricultural practices in the Sunraysia Region, the research participants emphasised perceived Italian cultural attributes: a strong work ethic, a family orientation and inventiveness. However, taking a political ecology approach, this thesis concludes that the role of cultural attributes needs to be understood alongside structural forces and environmental factors that have shaped farming practices in the Sunraysia Region, and Italian farming identities, over the period of a century. While this thesis focuses specifically on Italian farmers, it prompts reflection on the barriers and opportunities that confront new arrivals to the region, and which may inhibit their capacities to introduce their own diverse agricultural knowledges and practices in the present day.