Imagined Communities

Paul Dunn’s photos of housing estates in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth capture the power of aspiration and the end of tolerance in the Australian dream.
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A new home in a new housing estate? Choose your city, your home, your community. Welcome to the fantasy world of the dream home, where lifestyle and community are the commodities for sale in housing developments around the nation. For those of the right breed, property developers now promise a eugenically modified community complete with color schemes of your choice, landscaped gardens, en-suites and environmental consciousness. Beyond anti-discrimination legislation, political correctness and the borders of tolerance, new housing estates offer perfect communities.

Here an imagined harmony of trickling water, traffic calming and swaying palms offer sameness and the promise community. In a symphony of praise for gendered work and nurturing women, the outer suburban estate celebrates traditional family relations, ignoring the rapacious reality of double income mortgage demands.

The shiny metal frustration and burning heat of summer afternoon traffic is distant, as imagined wafts of prime beef BBQ, cold beers and warm laughter loom large in the fantasy community which gathers in memories never had.

We are the same. We are heterosexual. We are professional. We are young. We are one. We are one nation.

Imagined communities is a powerful study of paradox; class is dead; and community is sameness. Subliminal billboards whisper that tolerance and equality have been abandoned with a dialogue of community, inclusion, place and prestige. Here you can be yourself, get away from it all. The dark secrets of housing debt, of schools too far, of loneliness, of the realities of sameness and choice are looming shadows, waiting in the pools of light.

Kate Driscoll, Senior Lecturer,
School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning,
RMIT University, Melbourne
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