The Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, the Hon. Nicholas Kotsiras MP, launched the ‘Catalan Footprint in Australia’ online exhibition at the Melbourne Immigration Museum on the Catalan National Day, 11 September 2011.
The launch, hosted by the Casal Català of Victoria, was attended by an audience of close to one hundred, including the Consul General of Spain (Mr Miguel Gómez de Aranda), the Consulate’s Cultural Affairs Officer (Ms Laura Martínez Oliveras), members of the Casal and more than fifty descendants of the Catalan pioneering immigrants whose oral histories are captured on the Catalan Footprint website.
The project leader and chief researcher for the website, Lluisa Vilalta (President of the Myriades Cultural Association), flew from Barcelona to participate at the launch. She provided a demonstration of the many images, video clips, narratives and interview transcripts posted on the website, which capture much of the oral history of Catalan immigration to Australia from the 1840s to recent times. The key pages on the website are available in the three languages of the immigrants: Catalan, Spanish and English. Myriades has been responsible for the design and implementation of the website, including the transcription, editing and translation of all interviews, in addition to carrying out the underpinning research.
Guided by the local Catalan community’s historian Mrs Josephine (Josee) Canals, Ms Vilalta had criss-crossed Australia during 2010 to carry out the research. She travelled from Perth to Sydney and from Tasmania to Far North Queensland, recording interviews with many descendants of the Catalan pioneers, together with images of photos, diaries, newspaper cuttings and other historical artefacts that their families have kept. She thanked the Victorian Multicultural Commission, many donors from the pioneers’ families, and the Casal Català of Victoria for their support of the project, and singled out Casal Committee members Josee Canals and Dr Peter Gerrand for their support throughout the project.
Mrs Canals thanked all the private donors who, together with the VMC, had helped cover Ms Vilalta’s travel costs in Australia. Dr Gerrand spoke of the importance of the online exhibition in adding to the publicly available knowledge of the Catalan diaspora in Australia, and of the value of the Casal Català in the context of the more than one hundred Casals worldwide, whose comprehensive history has yet to be written. He noted that the Casal would not have reached its 25th anniversary this year without the ongoing contributions from several of its founding members, plus the participation in recent years of an increasing number of younger Catalan immigrants and temporary visitors in helping organize events such as the ‘Made in Catalonia’ Film Festival.