Statement of Significance

The Bonegilla Collection at Albury Library Museum is of national significance.

Bonegilla was the largest and longest operating migrant reception centre in the post-war era. It is of national significance as a place associated with and demonstrating a defining change in Australia's immigration policy. Most of the migrants and refugees that passed through Bonegilla, while it operated as a reception centre between 1947 and 1971, were drawn from non-English speaking European countries. This post-war shift from prioritising Anglo-Celtic sources transformed political and social expectations of the cultural diversity of Australia.

The memory pieces, photographs, documents, objects and other memorabilia given by former residents of the Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre to the Albury Library Museum provide evidence and insights into post-war migration and refugee experiences. The collection illuminates post-war immigration policies and procedures that changed the composition and size of the Australian population. It advances understandings of the post-war migration in transforming the nation economically, socially and culturally. The collection adds significantly to the extensive and much-prized immigration records held at the National Archives of Australia in that it views the arrival and early settlement processes from the vantage points of reception centre residents. The collection adds voices that help with the interpretation of the national heritage listed Block 19, Bonegilla site. Together, the immigration records held at the National Australian Archives, the Block 19 site and the Bonegilla Collection form a triptych that reveals the post-war migrant and refugee experience from differing angles.

The Bonegilla Collection is the principal holding of written and photographic evidence that underpins the collective memory of former residents. The collection is a resource of personal, family and group histories. For the migrants who spent time at the migrant reception and training centre and their descendants, the records in the Bonegilla Collection provide personal first-hand observations on arrival and settlement experiences. For the broader Australian community, the Bonegilla Collection helps represent the role of Australia as the ‘host' nation. The collection has powerful connections for many people.

Author: Dr. Bruce Pennay




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Australian Government Regional Arts Fund