From 1947 to 1971

There were a variety of refugee and migrant arrival experiences at the Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre. Those who arrived as Displaced Persons between 1947 and 1951, directly after the war years, were often content with the very basic conditions, having no home of their own. From 1951 until its closure in 1971 Bonegilla received assisted migrants and refugees, who had different expectations. Bonegilla operated as a migrant training and reception centre for a total of 24 years.

‘The Bonegilla Centre meant different things to different people – a curate's egg sort of place. To some it was a place of peace and plenty after years as conscripts in German factories on starvation rations, a place where one could roam at will, where one was close to the sky and Nature. To others it was an isolated place in the middle of nowhere from which they couldn't get away fast enough.' Marie Ashley, language instructor, 1949

During the economic downturns of 1952 and 1961, large numbers of migrants at Bonegilla held noisy demonstrations demanding work. The army was called out in 1952, and several carloads of police from the surrounding district were rushed to the centre in 1961. Both expressions of the migrants' discontent received national – and even international – attention.


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