Point Cook: The Crucible of Air Force Capability in Australia
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Stephen John Campbell-Wright
This thesis argues that place can have an influence on cultural heritage. A site can have a profound effect on the cultural heritage of a community or institution through the influence it exerts on public memory and sense of community. It can infuse itself into the narratives that give a community its identity. Such influence is heightened in the military context, especially where events of significance form the basis for the origin stories of the organisation. While military forces in Australia often refer to significant places, they give little attention to investigating, documenting and interpreting the effect of these sites on their cultural heritage or, more broadly, on local communities near the site, and on the nation. This study examines the influence of place on cultural heritage through the example the National Heritage Listed military site of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Point Cook. The thesis is an analytical case study that uses the site of Point Cook, and it comprises two principal components: historical enquiry and cultural heritage analysis. The approach is cross-disciplinary and places historical research into the site within a cultural heritage framework. The elements of intangible cultural heritage and site significance provide a framework for the historical enquiry into the site that, rather than comprising a single historical narrative, documents and expresses the history of the site through those two cultural heritage points of reference. The subsequent analysis interprets the site within four settings: the local community around Point Cook, the national setting, the international setting and finally the RAAF community. This thesis finds that the RAAF base at Point Cook has significantly influenced the cultural heritage of the RAAF. It pervades the public memory of the organisation, infusing itself into its birth narrative and acquiring attributed layers of meaning that act, in part, to form the identity of the present-day institution. Further, the site has helped to shape the culture of the local community, and it has played a part in the broader narrative of national development—in particular, in the roles that military and civil aviation have played in Australia’s development. The research findings demonstrate that sites of significance can have an effect that is not constrained to the community associated with it and can be used to help shape local communities, as well as to provide richer detail in the national narrative.
KeywordsPoint Cook; RAAF; Australian Flying Corps; Royal Australian Air Force; Laverton; Werribee; Wyndham; George Pearce; Eric Harrison; Henry Petre; Richard Williams; culture; cultural heritage; history; definition of history; the past; community; military aviation; military base; flying; aviation firsts; Defence architecture
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