“When you can see no future, what do you do?”
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.
In December 2007, Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre - Block 19 was recognised as a place with powerful connections for many people in Australia and a symbol of post-war migration which transformed Australia's economy, society and culture under the National Heritage List.
Today, Block 19 is a public memory place. The site and its associated oral, written and pictorial records in the Bonegilla Collection at the Albury Library/Museum bring to light post-war immigration policies and procedures that changed the composition and size of the Australian population.