From a distant shore: practices of place-making and belonging among Tokelau migrants in North Queensland

Mobbs, Diane (2013) From a distant shore: practices of place-making and belonging among Tokelau migrants in North Queensland. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

This thesis looks at the home-building and community construction strategies that Tokelauans use during the process of re-settlement in Townsville. It also explores how, in the process of home building, they gain a sense of place and sense of belonging, while simultaneously, maintaining transnational connections with family living elsewhere in Australia and abroad. Historically, the Tokelau people are part of a wider pan Pacific Island migration phenomenon that began during the mid twentieth century. The main receiving countries for many of these Pacific Islander emigrants are America, New Zealand and Australia. During the 1980s, Tokelauans started to migrate from New Zealand to different parts of Australia. While some have settled in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane, others have ventured further north to Townsville. Their northward migration to Queensland began in the mid 1990s, with many other Tokelauans following in a second migratory wave during the early 2000s. Currently, there are approximately three hundred Tokelauans living in Townsville. During the act of migrating, home becomes a shifting sphere, and for most migrants moving to another country results in feelings of homelessness and placelessness as their status changes from being insiders in their place of origin to being outsiders in a new country. In order to make a place for themselves and become an accepted part of the wider Townsville community, Tokelauans employ several strategies. One of these strategies is to seek the spiritual guidance and practical support that churches offer to all migrants. Church halls have become important meeting places for Tokelauans to build community sociality. A second re-settlement strategy involves voluntary dance performances given by Tokelauans at many Townsville community functions throughout the year. The most significant social function is the annual Townsville Cultural Fest. This festival is a multicultural event, and along with many other cultural groups, the Tokelauans have actively supported and consistently participated in the festival activities since their arrival in Townsville. The Cultural Fest is an essential part of the Queensland State Government's strong commitment to the promotion of its multicultural and social inclusion programs. As such, the Townsville Cultural Fest plays a significant role in bridging the gap between migrants and the local people. Townsville people have come to know Tokelauan people through their colourful dance displays at the festival each year, but know little of the social problems that some Tokelauans experience on a daily basis. As a further home making strategy, Tokelauan migrants draw on their transnational links with the homeland islands of Tokelau, and Tokelauan communities in New Zealand and Australia. The establishment of transnational pathways through the web of connections, and the fluidity of community boundaries across the diaspora are most discernable at community religious and social events, and in the frequency of visits by Townsville Tokelauans to other communities within Australia, New Zealand and the Tokelau Islands. Even though they migrate to other countries, Tokelauans still regard the island homelands as the centre of their universe. Return pilgrimages to the islands are desired by the older generation, and the trip is a rite of passage for the younger generation as it is where the 'real' Tokelauan culture' is practiced. During return visits, Tokelauans are able to relive old memories, make new ones and re-invigorate aspects of their culture in their diasporic communities. The nature of some transnational activities will continue to change over time, but as this study shows, these activities have effectively transformed Tokelauan settlements into transnational communities without borders through the ongoing inclusion of Tokelauan migrants into the politics of the homeland islands. A sense of who they are now, as Townsville Tokelau people, is directly related to the frequent and sustained long-distance communication and travel to other Tokelau communities. In effect, participation in transnational activities, plus local influences on the daily lives of Tokelauans has created a multiplicity of Tokelauan identities and communities.

Item ID: 40095
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: belonging; church; cultural anthropology; cultural heritage; cultural identity; cultural minorities; Cultural Fest; cultural festivals; culture; dance practices; ethnicity; identity; immigrants; migrant development; migrants; multiculturalism; North Queensland; Pacific peoples; performers; performing arts; religious pilgrimage; relocation; social anthropology; Tokelau; Tokelauans; Townsville
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2015 01:49
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950105 The Performing Arts (incl. Theatre and Dance) @ 33%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940111 Ethnicity, Multiculturalism and Migrant Development and Welfare @ 34%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940115 Pacific Peoples Development and Welfare @ 33%
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