Whose Values Count? Class, Place and Heritage During Waterfront Development Port Adelaide, South Australia

Author: Adam Paterson

Paterson, Adam, 2015 Whose Values Count? Class, Place and Heritage During Waterfront Development Port Adelaide, South Australia, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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In Australia there has been little critical reflection on the role that class plays during

negotiations over cultural heritage. This stands in contrast to the United Kingdom and

the United States, where research aiming to develop a better understanding of how class

shapes cultural heritage practice is more common. Key research themes in these

countries include identifying how working-class people participate in cultural heritage

activities; determining what barriers exist to their participation and what social purpose

cultural heritage has within post-industrial communities; and understanding how cultural

heritage is used in negotiations over the classed meanings of place during gentrification.

This thesis explores the relationships between class, place and heritage in Port Adelaide,

South Australia. Once a prosperous industrial and commercial port, since the 1980s Port

Adelaide has undergone slow social and economic change. In 2002, the State

Government announced plans for major re-development of surplus waterfront land in

order to generate profit and economic stimulation for the Port through extensive and

rapid development, radically transforming Port Adelaide physically and socially.

Drawing on a theoretical framework that identifies value and power as central to

determining the outcomes of heritage practice, with an emphasis on Foucault’s theory of

governmentality, the thesis asks: What values do different stakeholders associate with

heritage in Port Adelaide? Are these values easily incorporated into heritage frameworks,

especially the Burra Charter? And, are the values of heritage experts privileged over those

of non-experts? The data analysed in the thesis were gathered during an ethnographic

study (2009–2011) and include field notes, in-depth key informant interviews, 105

structured interviews (combining open and closed questioning), newspaper articles,

flyers, permits, newsletters, emails and Heritage Council minutes. Discourse analysis was

applied to text-rich sources, and statistical analysis to closed questions from the

structured interviews.

A wide range of values were identified, most of which are incorporated into the Burra

Charter or other, similar frameworks. Financial value, however, which featured repeatedly

in the discourses of all stakeholders, was not articulated or quantified clearly by any

group, including heritage professionals. Given the centrality of financial value to debates

about heritage value in Port Adelaide, as elsewhere, it is argued that further consideration

of the use of economic methods in cultural heritage management should be considered,

especially where changes to place are driven by development interests. The thesis also

presents a revised argument regarding the nature of social significance and the scale at

which it is understood to exist, suggesting in this case that it exists within social networks

articulated as ‘community’.

External discourses have stigmatised Port Adelaide since its establishment in 1836, and

many residents of metropolitan Adelaide identified the Port’s reputation as detracting

from its status as a desirable place to visit or live. Wary of negative associations, the 2002

development was discursively distanced from the Port’s working-class identity. In

contrast to the similar process of ‘heritageisation’—the process of making something

‘heritage’—the value of Port Adelaide to the development was not expressed in the

middle-class appeal of a formerly working-class neighbourhood, rather, in the

rationalised construction of modern high-rise buildings. Although class featured in

negative discourses about Port Adelaide, there was some evidence that place familiarity

had more of an effect on people’s attitudes toward the Port than their own socioeconomic


Finally, the analysis found that heritage professionals’ values were not privileged over

those of non-professionals. It is argued that, through a complex process involving the

use of property law and control over material resources, the State Government

marginalised heritage knowledge to achieve the outcomes desired by its commercial

partners. The outcome is an alternative understanding of power relations during cultural

heritage management that questions the primacy of expert knowledge within spaces

where governmentality operates.

Keywords: heritage, class, gentrification, power, value, expert, knowledge

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Heather Burke