Monday, October 17, 2005

Home on the Range: a symposium about heritage at Woomera

Home on the Range: the Cold War, space exploration and heritage at Woomera, South Australia

A symposium

4th November 2005
12.30 midday – 6.00 pm, Room 149 Social Sciences South, Flinders University
Hosted by the Department of Archaeology, Flinders University
Cost: Free
All welcome to attend. Please register by calling 0428 450 418 or email

In 1947, barely two years after the Second World War, Britain and Australia signed a joint agreement to develop ballistic missiles in a region perceived as remote and barren: the red desert of South Australia. Len Beadell, “the last of the explorers”, surveyed a rocket range and a town that became known as Woomera, an Aboriginal word for spear launcher.

Woomera was an integral part of the development of space capabilities for Britain, Europe and the USA, through the launch pads and tracking stations established in and around the boundaries of the vast restricted area. In 1967, Australia joined the “Space Club”, becoming the fourth country in the world to launch a satellite. Until the 1970s, Australia was at the forefront of developments in both civil and military technology. The infrastructure provided by Woomera enabled Britain to conduct a series of nuclear tests at Maralinga and Emu Field. Woomera was very much a Cold War place.

Throughout this period, families were raised and gardens nurtured in the town of Woomera. Under the watchful eyes of security, swimming carnivals and football matches took place; annual balls with beauty competitions, and an endless stream of visiting dignitaries and royalty stepped off the tiny planes to visit Australia’s premier weapons and space facility.

Today, the huge launch pads lie in ruins and the township is experiencing a decline in population. Woomera is remembered more for the detention centre than its glory days as the world’s second busiest spaceport. How can we understand the heritage of Woomera and what it means for contemporary Australians? This symposium explores aspects of Woomera from secrecy and security, town planning, and technology, to Indigenous perceptions of the landscape.

Presenters include:

Associate Professor Peter Morton, Flinders University, author of “Fire across the desert”
Dr Alice Gorman, University of New England
Dr Christine Garnaut, University of South Australia
Mr Geoff Spiers, museum consultant for the new Woomera Heritage Centre
Mr Phil Czerwinski, Archaeologist, Australian Cultural Heritage Management
Mr Andrew Starkey, Indigenous Liaison Officer, Defence Support Centre, Woomera
Ms Andrea Williams, Honours graduate, Flinders University
Mr Kael da Costa, Project Co-ordinator, Murray-Darling Basin Commission

For more information please contact Alice Gorman on 0428 450 418 or