Bridging the Distance | 1951-migrant-reception-and-training-centres
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On arrival to Australia, many migrants went to migrant
reception and training centres, with Bonegilla
being the biggest centre. This is where the newcomers
started learning English and tried to find a job.

First arrival

‘At 15 it was all a big adventure to us, with lots of swimming at the lake, climbing many mountains, and hitchhiking to Albury and watching out for all the single men who were there.’

WILHELMIENA BOON, Bonegilla Memories Database

‘I was hospitalised with heat stroke, my wife with premature labour, and [our] daughter with a fractured skull after a fall on the ship. We also have many good memories of our time in Bonegilla and have no regrets [about] coming to Australia, which is now and will always be our home.’

PETER HOEBEN, Bonegilla Memories Database

The first migrants were received in Bonegilla in 1951. It is estimated that over 1.5 million Australians are descended from migrants who spent time at Bonegilla. Other camps were Benalla, Rushworth and Somers in Victoria, Greta and Bathurst in New South Wales, Stuart and Wacol in Queensland and Northam Holden, Graylands and Cunderdin in Western Australia.

The archives

Not many records of these migrant ‘camps’ have survived, but those that have can provide information about the migrants. The National Archives holds cards for all of the migrants who stayed at the Bonegilla reception and training centre. The Bonegilla cards usually include a physical description of the person, as well as a photograph.