Maintaining Traditions

Victorian Caledonian Society
Victorian Caledonian Society in Bendigo, late 19th century
Source: MV

Immigrants to Victoria have always found ways to keep their diverse cultural traditions alive in their new home.

They have formed associations and clubs, built places of religious worship, published language-specific newspapers, and imported and made foods from home — informed by the skills, knowledge and beliefs they have brought with them.

As far back as the 1850s, the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation built its new synagogue, Scottish Caledonian societies were established and the Italian Lucini family began producing pasta in their factory in central Victoria.

Such overt cultural practices have not always been encouraged. Australian immigration policies primarily favoured British immigrants, as well as people from cultures that could be easily assimilated into a predominantly Anglo-Australian society. Since the 1970s, political shifts to multiculturalism acknowledged the value of diversity and equality in all its forms, recognising the importance for people to be able to express their cultural identity. Nevertheless, issues such as social integration, religious tolerance and a single Australian identity, continue to inform public debate.

The maintaining of some cultural traditions can sometimes result in customs frozen in time. A particular weaving pattern, wedding custom or dance, which has been transported here and practised without change in Victoria, may have evolved or even disappeared in its country of origin.

Masumi Hiraga Jackson continues to teach, perform and pass on her knowledge and skills of traditional Japanese theatre, doll making and Ikebana (flower arrangement) to Japanese and non Japanese audiences — connecting living arts between the old country and the new.

Image Gallery

Masumi performing Noh dance Austrian sculptor Leopoldine Mimovich