The Catalan footprint // PROJECT


Myriades Associació Cultural and Casal Català de Victoria (Catalan Centre of Victoria) are delighted to present

“The Catalan Footprint in Australia: the on-line exhibition” 

on the first Catalan settlers in Australia. Of the many Spaniards who arrived in Australia between 1846 and 1914, most came from Catalonia, the region in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. There are many historical documents that illustrate the importance of Catalan families in the development of the City of Melbourne in particular, but most of these are not accessible to the community.

Did you know that Catalan migrants were the first ones to grow tomatoes in Australia? Did you know that the famous Australian meat pie was a French-Catalan invention? The influence of the Catalan community in Victoria was significant in the development of Melbourne from the 1870s to the 1930s. Indeed, one can still recognise the influence of those Catalan pioneers in Victoria. Walking along Melbourne you can discover Morell Bridge, Barcelona Terrace, Canals Fish shop… Did you know that Melbourne had a Lord Mayor of Catalan descent? Australia’s most famous war photographer had Catalan blood. As did a well-known magician, the first aviator to fly from London to Australia, a senator for Queensland, and many other glorious characters that left their Catalan imprint in Australian society. 

The Catalan Footprint in Australia website exhibition captures the impact of the Spanish-Australian culture of this entrepreneurial immigrant community across Australia  through its oral history and its cultural heritage, and makes it accessible to everyone - in three different languages - through modern technologies. The methodology used for research and production of the exhibition has been a participatory process. Researcher Lluisa Vilalta, who criss-crossed Australia in 2010 to record interviews with descendants of the early Catalan pioneers, was guided by members of the Australian Catalan community in every stage of the project development.  

The project is produced by Myriades Associació Cultural, a non-for-profit organisation based in Barcelona which develops projects of cultural cooperation between different countries and communities, with the support of the Casal Català de Victoria. Its aims and methodology are based in engaging local communities to organise exhibitions around the world. The members of the Catalan community in Victoria are part of the research and development process of the project, as we consider that the participatory approach will empower and engage this community, which is still being augmented by new immigrants from Catalonia. As many of the members of the Australian Catalan community are elderly, the project has not only recorded their family stories but also facilitated intergenerational contact with the young members of their families, who can act as interviewers. It can lead them to discover their grandparents’ or great-granparents’ origins and home culture, and reinvigorate their own sense of cultural identity and place in Australia’s rich multicultural history.

In addition, the personal stories recorded are complemented by historical documentation and interviews with experts on Catalan culture in Australia, which will assist the accuracy of the information provided in the exhibition. So far, the Royal Historical Society of Victoria is participating in the process, as well as the Spanish Consulate in Melbourne, and academics in the Spanish Departments at Monash University and La Trobe University.

The project aims to:

  • Raise awareness on the importance of the Spanish Catalan community in Australia,
  • Encourage the understanding of Catalan and Spanish culture and languages,
  • Strenghten the relationship between Spain and Australia,
  • Preserve and offer online access to photographs, documents, videos and oral history, 
  • Gain wider recognition of the contributions of Spanish Catalan migrants and their descendants to Australian society, and encourage them to participate in future projects, and
  • Provide a ‘living website’ that can be updated with further stories and histories.

The exhibition’s format and content preserves many stories of the early Catalan settlers in Australia and offers access to such information via the Internet. Therefore, the information will be accessible from everywhere in the world, in English, Spanish and Catalan, for an undetermined period of time (a minimum of 5 years). The initial on-line exhibition is articulated around a database based on the results of the research in 2010, but it will be designed so that it can be frequently updated by the members of the community or other individuals interested in it. This will allow a regular updating, expanding of information and engagement of the community (and scholars) with the project.

The on-line exhibition has audio-cuts and podcasts from the interviews, videos (with transcriptions in English and subtitles in Catalan, or viceversa), graphic material, stories in written format, and also dinamic multimedia applications. It offers the option to download the exhibition’s explanatory framework, so those sectors of the audience who prefer written material will be able to access those resources.

The project has received funding through several sources: donations by members of the Australian Catalan community; a grant from the Victorian Multicultural Commission via the Casal Català de Victoria; and a grant from the Spanish Cultural Co-operation Program in Australia, administered by the Australian National University. The majority of the  work in researching the oral history and developing the website has been contributed in-kind by Myriades Associació Cultural, with assistance from the Casal Català de Victoria.

The opening of the on-line exhibition takes place on the 11th of September 2011, the Catalan national day (la Diada), at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne.