Museum of Human Migration for our region


The Illawarra Migration Heritage Project Inc. (MHP) and the Multicultural Communities Council of the Illawarra (MCCI) received funding from the Port Kembla Community Investment Fund to scope the feasibility and viability of a large and significant museum that will tell the story of our rich and diverse heritage through the lens of human migration.

This study is now complete and available for download at the link above.

The Concept Study for Establishing a Heritage Centre of Human Migration in the Illawarra illustrates that a regionally significant museum of human migration in Port Kembla is a feasible and exciting prospect. The concept aligns with government planning, community expectations and supports the growth of diversified and ongoing employment opportunities. This document provides a concept plan for a museum, a review of current successful regional and state museums as well as options for the undertaking.

The Migration Heritage Project (MHP) and the Multicultural Communities Council of the Illawarra (MCCI) engaged John Petersen to undertake the study.

A steering committee made up of stakeholders from the heritage, government, and non-government sectors provided guidance and support to John Petersen, MHP and MCCI for this work. The Illawarra Aboriginal Land Council also participated in the design and concept development, providing an exciting opportunity to ensure the Indigenous History of the region forms a key component.

Progress to realise this vision will require significant collaboration across government and philanthropic organisations with the outcome being of great significance to the local community and wider Australia.

The Illawarra is an iconic place that has played a significant role in contributing to the economic growth of our nation. A large regional museum will be a holding place for the culturally rich and internationally unique stories of the region showcasing the impacts of the movement of peoples in an industrial landscape.

The MHP and MCCI are very keen to further discussions to take this vision forward.

What is a Museum of Human Migration?
A Museum of Human Migration will be a place that brings the stories of our culturally rich and diverse community to life. It will be a museum of social history.  It will begin with the stories of the First Australians and through ongoing engagement, research, documentation and exhibition, showcase how all the waves of migration have impacted on and shaped our region. These stories will be told through the eyes of the people who live and came to live here.

Why is a Museum of Human Migration Important?
Without a museum that has the role of recording and keeping our stories safe, they will all be lost and forgotten and new generations will have little opportunity to learn about the history of their city. Our current voluntary run museums don’t have the capacity to do this work, and it does not fit the remit of our libraries. We are the 10th largest city in Australia and we do not have a museum worthy of our status.  This is not just our idea, the need for a museum in our region was identified in Wollongong City Council’s new cultural plan and by Destination Wollongong following extensive local community consultation which drew united and enthusiastic responses.

Will it replace all the other museums in the area?
This Museum would not replace any of the smaller museums. On the contrary, it would aim to support and sustain the research and enquiry of smaller museums, bringing them into the larger museum as part of permanent or temporary exhibitions.

Why Port Kembla?
Port Kembla NSW is a port of great significance to Wollongong and to Australia. For over a century, it has played a significant role in the development and growth of heavy industry in the region as well as playing a central part in facilitating trade for NSW and contributing to the economic growth of the nation. It is a key area of cultural significance to our local Indigenous community and holds an iconic role in migration history providing work for one of the biggest workforces in Australia after the Second World War, even larger than the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme. Port Kembla has a strong claim to the New South Wales migration and settlement story, with many migrants and their descendants settling and staying in the Wollongong region.

Who prepared the feasibility study?
John Petersen (MPHA, MICOMOS) is the founding manager of the former NSW Migration Heritage Centre at the Powerhouse Museum and head of property for Hyde Park Barracks Museum, Sydney. John worked with the MHP and MCCI, supported by an advisory committee made up of people representing State and Local government, heritage and community sectors.