Recreation at Bonegilla

Migrant photographs and memory pieces refer time after time to the wide-open spaces around Bonegilla and to the nearby river. The local media made much of the role played by the physical setting in Australianising the newcomers. It was on long walks in the vicinity of Bonegilla that the newcomers came to an understanding of the physical setting in which non-metropolitan, inland Australians lived. This place was Australia for them – the heat, the cold, the sun, the flies, the sense of isolation and bareness.

Newcomers could choose to attend classes where they were taught survival English and something about Australian ways, including weights and measures, hygiene standards, history and geography. In the early years of operation there was a distinctly British learning style; for instance, migrants were taught to name the British monarchs, often through the use of song. 

Leisure opportunities widened from about 1951 with the appointment of specialist YWCA and YMCA recreational staff, funded from a locally raised and administered amenities fund. Small prizes were awarded to the winners of boxing tournaments, and soccer, basketball, volleyball and table tennis competitions. Supper was provided for visiting teams from outside the centre. Card parties, dance evenings, family picnics and sports afternoons for the children were arranged. A well-equipped and staffed Creative Leisure Centre operated for children during the 1960s. There was a cinema.

For many people the centre was ‘Boring Bone-bloody-gilla'. Processing after arrival occupied a few days, and then there was the long wait to be allocated a job.

Australian Government Regional Arts Fund