'But no one can say he was hungry': Memories and representations of Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre

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This article examines representations of the Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre and the arrival experiences of the non-British immigrants who were processed there between 1947 and 1971. In it I challenge what I see as a drift in scholarly conversations about post-war immigration towards emphasising new arrival discomfort and making harsh judgements about the way the migrant experience was structured. The article was stimulated by Nadia Postiglione's ''It was just horrible': the food experiences of immigrants in 1950s Australia'. In continuing the conversation she initiated, I give attention to new arrival food experiences, for food is a key indicator of cultural transition and hospitality. The thrust of the article, however, is an extrapolation of Paula Hamilton's observations on shifts in Australia's memorial culture and developments in a 'memory industry'. I worry about untangling conflicting memories and representations of place and times within living memory. I suggest that dystopian representations of migrant accommodation centres may fit an apologetic commemorative culture, but do not always tally with the evidence. This article is part of a long-term endeavour to try to develop nuanced social histories on which to base interpretation of the Bonegilla Migrant Experience heritage park. It starts with a discussion of some of the perils and advantages of writing history at and from a heritage place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-63
Number of pages21
JournalHistory Australia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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