The Symposium is being held at Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus, a refurbished wool store on the waterfront. I have been thinking about how I will introduce the day. Naturally there will be housekeeping ‘stuff’ but I want to say something about Geelong and Oral History and my history.
I grew up here in the 1950s but spent most of my adult life in Melbourne. Recently I returned to Geelong to live and I am amazed how quickly I have settled back into Geelong life and engaged with the Geelong community and with Geelong’s issues.
I think Geelong is a superb place to live. The city looks out over a magnificent bay – Corio Bay – and towards a significant landmark, The You Yangs. Eastern Beach is still as I remember it with its Promenade, bathing pavilion and swimming pool with a fountain in the middle. This is where I learned to swim and where I first heard about the assassination of President Kennedy.
But Geelong is loosing its industry and today at Deakin there is also a big forum on Jobs and Futures for all those people who have lost jobs or will loose jobs. Just yesterday Ford announced another round of significant job cuts.
The industry that Geelong is now loosing is part of my history. In the 1950s it attracted hundreds of workers to Geelong. My best friends were Irene, from Germany and Ninke from Holland and my first boyfriend Art, was from Holland. Our neighbors up the street were Italian. Strict Catholics, they introduced me to fish and chips on Friday night. Our celebration cake was a four-layer frosted chocolate cake – the recipe came from Americans living in town and I tasted my first hot Pakistan curry before I turned ten years old. We bought continental bread and Dr Oetker custard powder from Wiss Bakery in Little Malop Street. Without ever being aware of it, mine was a multicultural childhood.
Loss of this industry is a devastating loss for all the current workers and their families but it is also a loss for the rest of the community. With the end of industry here goes the end of a big source of memory for me. Most things I recall are linked to Alcoa, Ford, International Harvester and the Shell refinery and the jobs they provided.