Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre
Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre was once made up of 24 blocks.
It had its own churches, banks, sporting fields, cinema, hospital, police station and railway platform. Today, Block 19 is all that remains of the original site. Bonegilla Migrant Experience brings to life the stories and experiences of the people who travelled through the centre.
The Bonegilla story began in the years following World War II, when millions of people seeking a new start and peace, departed for Australia. An army camp at Bonegilla was transformed into a migrant reception and training centre where new arrivals lived while they were processed and allocated jobs.
Bonegilla became the largest and longest operating reception centre in the post-war era. More than 300,000 migrants passed through its doors between 1947 and 1971, with most of those originating from non-English speaking European countries.
They had diverse arrival and settlement experiences. Many migrants recall arriving lonely and confused, unsure of where they were going and what they would be doing. Others saw Bonegilla as a place of hope, symbolic of a new start.
Today: Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre
Today all that remains of the site is Block 19 which provides visitors with a vivid insight into what migrants would have experienced as their first Australian home.
Did you know..?
- Bonegilla was one of the first, and the largest and longest-lived migrant reception and training centre. Altogether over 300 000 people spent some time at Bonegilla, before the centre closed in 1971. Most were from non-English speaking European countries, and their arrival changed the composition and size of Australia's population.
- The site is significant to migrants and refugees. It yields insights into post-war migrant and refugee experiences. The migrant centre was separated geographically and socially from Wodonga and Albury, as well as the rest of the nation. Living conditions were Spartan.
- The site is significant to the whole nation as a host society. It invites exploration of the mixed community responses to newcomers, prompting examination and explanation of the expressions of feelings such as wariness, hostility, compassion, neighbourliness and indifference associated with 'taking in strangers'.
- Block 19 is a remnant of the Bonegilla Army Camp, which played an important role in defending Australia. It is valued by the Army community. An understanding of the army presence is a prerequisite to understanding not only the layering of the site physically, but also the social setting of the migrant centre, especially when there was conjoint use of the facilities by migrants and soldiers from 1947 to 1949 and after 1966.
- Over 300,000 people had their first 'landfall', their 'Ellis Island', at Bonegilla. Among those introduced to Australia at Bonegilla were many who won fame and/or notoriety for their achievements: for example, Sir Arvi Parbo, Franca Arena, Arman Alexander Opitz have been cited in heritage registrations of the site.
Ownership of the remaining 'Block 19' site was transferred from the Department of Defence to the Victorian Government in 1996. The Government in turn appointed parklands Albury Wodonga as the site's management committee.
The Bonegilla Migrant Camp, in operation from 1947-1971, was Australia's first, largest, and longest operating migrant reception centre. It became the first Australian home for some 320,000 post-war migrants from over 30 countries.
The camp has touched the lives of some 1.5 million Australians and stands as strong testimony to the post-war immigrants who came and settled here.
'Block 19' is deemed a priceless cultural heritage site of great national significance - contributing to the birth of multiculturalism.
Further information on parklands tracks and trails, and the Bonegilla Migrant Experience, contact (02) 6023 6714.
❊ Address & Contact ❊
⊜ 82 Bonegilla Rd Bonegilla | Map
✆ (02) 6023 6714
❊ Web Links ❊
→ Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre
→ Download The Bonegilla Migrant Experience Self-guided Tour
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