Bonegilla Migrant Experience
The Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre was a camp set up for receiving and training migrants to Australia during the post World War II immigration boom. The camp was set on 130 hectares (320 acres) near Wodonga at the locality of Bonegilla in north east Victoria, between the Hume Dam and the city of Wodonga. The site was a former World War II Australian Army base, and is adjacent to the current Latchford Barracks. Before being requisitioned by the army, the site was originally a section of large pastoral land. The camp opened in 1947 and operated until 1971, over which period it received over 300,000 migrants. It is estimated that over 1.5 million Australians are descended from migrants who spent time at Bonegilla. Eric Bana's parents were both processed through Bonegilla. Other former residents include Karl Kruszelnicki, Franca Arena, Arvi Parbo, Les Murray and Raimond Gaita.
In the 24 years in which the camp operated, the estimated amount of arrivals was approximately 309,000. It remains the largest and longest-lasting migrant reception centre in post-war Australia. In 1945 the Australian Government, led by the ALP, actively sought to implement policies that would increase the natural population. This resulted in the opening of twenty holding centres and three reception centres (including Bonegilla) by 1951. The Aliens Act of 1947, the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948, and the Migration Act of 1958 increased migration although it placed migrants under surveillance and limited social access. The Assisted Passage Scheme encouraged passage for British migrants in 1946. However, less than 7000 British citizens migrated during the period, which meant that the government instead turned to the displaced persons and war refugees (of which there were an estimated 1.6 million) in French, Austrian, and German camps. These migrants were granted passage under a two-year labour contract to be housed at the reception and training centres to adjust into the 'Australian way of life'.