Urban purity and danger: the turbulence associated with contamination in suburban Australia

Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia
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Conference Proceeding
Green Fields, Brown Fields, New Fields: Proceedings of the 10th Australasian Urban History, Planning History Conference (CD-ROM)., 2010, pp. 1 - 15
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The rapid growth of Australian cities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries saw the emergence of a long-running tension between processes of urbanisation and industrialisation. Urbanisation is characterised by an increase in the number of people who chose to call the city their home. In this case, simultaneous industrialisation provided new residents with much-needed employment whilst locating noxious and polluting industries on their doorstep. This paper presents findings from an Australian research project that investigates how residential communities experience and perceive industrial contamination that modern urban planning has so vehemently sought to protect them from. It presents evidence on how such contamination can disrupt, challenge or completely invert the way in which residents approach their neighbourhood and home. This research addresses a gap in the literature, analysing the topic within the Australian context. This paper presents findings from a random telephone survey conducted with 400 suburban residents in the North Lake Macquarie area of New South Wales (NSW), living in proximity of industry, including a lead and zinc smelter. This research expands on the existing literature of Edelstein and others, to explore the psychosocial turbulence that emerges when the lifescape of suburban neighbourhoods in the Australia are contaminated by the toxicity of industries in this case the smelter has contaminated both the industrial land itself and the surrounding suburbs. Lifescape can be broadly defined to describe the individual habits and collective behaviour and assumptions that make up everyday life in local areas. Psychosocial turbulence extends from potential effects on peoples patterns of living, activities and relationships, through to their sense of health, security and safety, and their feeling of personal control.
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