ANU School of History Seminar Series
Wednesday 21 March 2018 4:15-5:30pm
Jean Martin meeting room level 3 Beryl Rawson Building (13) ANU

Fiona Firth, PhD Candidate, ANU

Between 1965 and 1996 the population of the Bega Valley Shire in the south eastern corner of New South Wales more than doubled. During this period the area transformed from one with an economy based on dairy farming to one with an increasing presence of rural residential living, ‘alternative’ and post-retirement settlement, the growth of a tourism industry and the establishment of new national parks. Within these processes, conflicts arose over land use, environmental values and wider issues of cultural change and regulation. Fiona’s thesis tracks several of these conflicts, assessing the interests and identities they tested, analyzing the experience of engagement in increasingly complex forms of political action, and exploring what was learned by those drawn into contested aspects of land use and development. Drawing on interviews with those involved in these disputes, and surveying several levels of government consideration of them, Fiona’s study offers a close investigation of the ‘population turnaround’ that has characterized much of regional Australia over recent decades.

Fiona Firth moved to the Bega Valley in 1982 to live in a Nineteenth Century coaching station. Living in such an old house inspired her to research the area’s history. Her honours thesis focussed on Bega Valley from 1850-1900. Fiona is currently a PhD candidate in the School of History at ANU investigating the migration of ‘new settlers’ into the Valley in the 1970s and 1980s. Fiona presents local history in diverse ways in her community including talks to community groups, history walks, cemetery tours and presentations combining music and local history at the annual Cobargo Folk Festival.