Bonegilla Hall

EVENT DATE: Thursday 26 November

Do you wish you had a better understanding of how to look after yourself, your arts practice, or your arts organisation?

In partnership with Murray Arts and Wodonga City Council, Regional Arts Victoria has scheduled a Regional Cultural Forum in Bonegilla that will focus on how to put you and your arts practice first. You’ll also hear about community engagement and learn various ways to think about succession planning to assist with continuing the future of your arts group.

Regional Arts Victoria staff members, along with local artists and organisations will be there to help guide the discussions throughout the day!

Thursday 26 November
Bonegilla Welcome Centre
82 Bonegilla Rd, Bonegilla
RSVP to Lucy Hamilton, or 9644 1813 by Friday 20 November. Please advise of any dietary or access requirements.


Bonegilla belongs to the Aboriginal people who originally lived in the rich riverside district where the Mitta Mitta River joined the Murray River. It also belongs to the pastoralists who farmed the area, and the residents who came to live here long before the construction of the army camp in 1940.

The army moved into the Bonegilla military camp and hospital in September 1940. Altogether, about 5,000 service men and women were based at the site at any one time. It was enlarged to 848 buildings in 1942 to provide training for small arms instructors, transport workers, bomb disposal and gas warfare personnel. The hospital took in Australian and American soldiers recovering from bouts of malaria and tuberculosis.

After World War II, the Australian Government actively sought migrants to help populate Australia. The Minister for Immigration at the time, Arthur Calwell, wanted to treble the size of the Australian population to improve our defence capability and foster economic growth. Calwell decided to reuse the facilities at some military camps to provide accommodation for new migrants.

Between 1947 and 1971, over 300,000 migrants from more than 50 countries called Bonegilla their first “Aussie home.” They arrived by train to Bonegilla railway siding where they were met, in the early days, by army personnel who provided transport, security and catering services.  Because the migrant centre was initially run by the army, the military character of the buildings and routines remained long after the army left in 1949.

The first migrants to arrive at the migrant centre were displaced persons who had lived in refugee camps in Europe. About half of the 170,000 displaced people coming to Australia between 1947 and 1951 lived at Bonegilla, many of them in Block 19. Most of them stayed for about a month while they learnt to speak English and the way of life here. Then they were moved to work in areas where there was a labour shortage.

From 1951 to 1971, Bonegilla started to receive assisted migrants rather than displaced people. They came from a variety of countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Austria, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Spain, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. They came to Australia looking for secure employment and hoping for a better life.

During times of reduced employment in the country, some migrants at Bonegilla became dissatisfied with their prolonged wait for work. They felt they had been duped and had been kept too long in inadequate accommodation with nothing to do. This resulted in separate riots at the site in 1952 and 1961.

The migrant centre had a significant impact on the local area with the population of Albury Wodonga nearly doubling between 1947 and 1971, and the number of overseas-born in the immediate area increasing eight-fold. Bonegilla played a big part in expanding the local economy and enriching the social fabric of the district. Many migrants have chosen to stay in the area.

In 1971, the Bonegilla Migrant Centre was closed and the site was given back to the army. Between 1978 and 1982, nearly the entire centre was demolished in a major army redevelopment. Block 19, the last surviving block, was given heritage listing in 2002 and is managed now by Parklands Albury-Wodonga.

More information is available on the Bonegilla Migrant Experience website.