It's All About Bridges - Remembering Them, Imagining Them, Maintaining Them and Building Them By Dr. Richard Johnson Deakin University, Melbourne Australia.


In this paper I discuss the significant role of 'bridge building' that was part of my process of searching for identity and making Australia home.

I will begin by clarifying the position from which I speak by describing the context from which I tell my story.

I immigrated to Australia in 1969 and I soon felt the urge to learn more about the history of the country I was to call home for the foreseeable future. So far, everything had been a significant contrast. All I could observe were differences. Positive as they were, they still called for adjustment and change. I was looking for bridges.

Geoffrey Blainey's reference to India in The Tyranny of Distance initiated my interest in researching the bridge between India and Australia in the nineteenth century. While Blainey made several references to India in the early development of colonial Australia, other historians have not developed that issue. I started my research with Blainey's lead that there were some years in the nineteenth century when Australia seemed to be a satellite of India as well as a colony of England and that cargoes from Bengal fed and equipped the colony and also gave it a hangover. It seemed so obvious that the two `neighbouring' British colonies have contact with each other and as Blainey pointed out, Australia was so far from England, and communication between the two was so irregular, that Sydney slowly drifted into Asia's net of commerce.

I soon discovered that Australia's relationship with India in the nineteenth century was an area relatively neglected by historians of both countries. My objective was then to explore the relationship between the two countries. I started by investigating the early trade links between India and Australia using the well documented source of Cumpston's Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Sydney, 1788-1825. I organised the information in the shipping lists into a computer database which when accessed would reveal interesting patterns and trends.

I will discuss early trade links, when Australia was a satellite to India and then the years of speculation and lost opportunities when the trade links were not encouraged to develop. I will also discuss Anglo-Indians who settled in Australia and the efforts made by interested parties to establish settlements of Anglo-Indians in Australia and the Anglo-Indian architectural style of the bungalow with the verandah, which was to become an important part of Australia's architecture.

I will discuss the possible reasons for the absence of the India/Australia relationship being developed in Australian texts.