Lois Salvisberg Honours Time in Migrant Centre

A New Zealander who had become a Swiss citizen, Lois Salvisberg perhaps wasn’t a typical new arrival to Australia’s Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre in 1969. “I didn’t mind it, we were used to camping,” she said.

“The food was good, we actually had a French cook where we were. I had never been to Australia, but it wasn’t that daunting.”

Salvisberg, now of Wodonga, is one of more than 300,000 people who passed through Bonegilla between 1947 and 1971.

As millions of people left Europe seeking a new life after World War II, an army camp at Bonegilla was transformed into a migrant reception and training centre.

New arrivals, many of whom spoke little English, lived there while they were processed and allocated jobs.

Salvisberg, her Swiss husband and their two children, aged one and two, spent several weeks at Bonegilla before moving to first Perth, then Mount Isa for work. Daily life at the centre was busy and the shared facilities sometimes basic.

A volunteer at Bonegilla Migrant Experience for the past six years, she will join its main 70th anniversary celebrations on 18 November. The event will feature mini-museum exhibitions, live music, an author talk, performances and European-style food.

Original article by Janet Howie, The Border Mail, November 8, 2017.

Photo by Mark Jesser.

Tags: Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre  Border Mail (The)  Lois Salvisberg  

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