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MURDER AND THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM
thesisposted on 03.12.2017, 23:18 authored by Noel William Turner
This thesis critically examines the mythology of the Australian Dream and way of life “prescribed” by the Australian Dream in the post-World War II period in Australian social history. It does so through the lenses of four iconic murder cases where the victims were murdered in their homes. The main argument developed in the thesis is that the archetypal version of the Australian Dream myth became progressively less and less applicable to real social conditions in Australian society, a realisation “brought to light” as it were, via careful and detailed analyses of the four murders chosen as “test” samples. A secondary argument developed throughout the thesis is that the persistence of the Australian Dream myth was aided by commodified media representations of the murders “sampled” in the following analysis. The thesis also contends that the analysis of murder in the Australian home can be a productive historiographical method through which socio-historical phenomena can be disclosed. The myth of the Australian Dream was infused with the mostly conservative values of family life and the material, emotional and psychological attachment to home and its suburban locale. Yet, as this thesis contends, the values associated with home and family – and as idealised in the Australian Dream – are challenged when a murder occurs within the home, especially the murder of women (and children). Based on an analysis of four selected murder cases drawn from the latter post-World War II period in and around Melbourne, Victoria, this thesis proposes that the archetype of the Australian Dream, as espoused from the 1950s and 1960s, for example, as part of the Menzies’ government’s official social ideology, and strongly buttressed by many sections of the media, would become less and less relevant to actually existing social conditions in Australia. The thesis argues that the construct of the Australian Dream could not encompass the manifold social changes that occurred in Australia, particularly from the late 1960s until the early 2000s, and which continue to the present day. A number of questions are posed in this thesis. For example, how and why have these changes occurred and what might be the consequences of such a disjuncture between the continued idealisation of an “outdated” Australian Dream and the actual conditions of an ever-evolving Australian social reality? An ancillary important focus of the thesis is the role of the media in such processes. For example, I investigate how murder in the home, the “heart” of the Australian Dream, was usually commodified by the media and used to reinforce the conservative moral and cultural values associated with home and family, as entrenched in the archetype of the Australian Dream. The four murder cases selected for this study occurred between 1970 and 2005. This thesis is based on analysis of archival documents associated with each case, including court and inquest records, private papers and contemporary media articles. These sources inform the thesis by opening “windows” into both the particular murder cases and the contemporary conditions of the social “topography” where they occurred. I suggest that my analysis establishes how aspects of these crimes challenged perceived notions of the Australian Dream, its worthiness and relevance, within a context of quite dramatic and ongoing social change.