Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre

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A sculpture commemorating the migrants who spent time at the Bonegilla camp. Some of Block 19 can be seen in the background.
Block 4 of the camp while operational in 1954

The Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre was a camp set up for receiving and training migrants to Australia during the post World War II immigration boom. The camp was set on 130 hectares (320 acres) near the small town of Bonegilla in north east Victoria,[1] between the Hume Dam and the city of Wodonga. The site was a former World War II Australian Army base, and is adjacent to the current Latchford Barracks. The camp opened in 1947 and operated until 1971, over which period it received over 300,000 migrants.[1] It is estimated that over 1.5 million Australians are descended from migrants who spent time at Bonegilla.[2]

The camp, with very basic facilities, was separated socially and geographically from nearby Albury and Wodonga and most residents were from non-English speaking nations.[1][3] The camp was broken up into 24 blocks each with a kitchen, mess hut and bath and toilet blocks. The accommodation itself was in ex-Army unlined timber-framed buildings with corrugated iron walls. The rooms were designed to accommodate 20 people and contained no internal partitions.[4] From 1951 onwards the internal walls were slowly lined and painted and cubicles installed, allowing some privacy.[4]

The centre was remote from the larger cities and generally attracted little attention from the Australian press. An exception from this general rule was in 1949 when 13 newly arrived children died from malnutrition. An official inquiry was critical of the inadequately staffed and equipped hospital.[5] There were protests about food and conditions in 1952 and Italian and German migrants staged a riot in 1961, smashing the employment office and clashing with police. The protesters posted signs reading "We want work or back to Europe" and "Bonegilla camp without hope". These two events embarrassed Australian authorities and saw a review of settlement policies.[5]

Former residents include Franca Arena[6] and Sir Arvi Parbo.[1][7] The only section of the camp remaining is Block 19 which now is now a museum and interpretive centre.[1] In 2007, Block 19 was included on the Australian National Heritage List.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Bonegilla Migrant Experience & Block 19 Today". Bonegilla Migrant Experience. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Bonegilla Migrant Camp - Block 19, Victoria". Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Skowronska, Wanda (2013). From Somewhere to Bonegilla. Connorcourt. ISBN 9781922168733. Retrieved 23 Aug 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "First Impressions". So Much Sky: Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre 1947 - 1951. NSW Migration Heritage Centre. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Becoming Australian". So Much Sky: Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre 1947 - 1951. NSW Migration Heritage Centre. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Cresciani, Gianfranco (2003). The Italians in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-0-521-53778-0. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "Australian Heritage Database". Australian Federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°07′52″S 147°00′49″E / 36.13104°S 147.01359°E / -36.13104; 147.01359