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ID card exhibition celebrates migrant stories

8 Nov, 2022

A new exhibition at the Bonegilla Migrant Experience will celebrate the stories of thousands of people who changed Australia, through the preservation of their first official documentation as new arrivals to the country.

The Bonegilla ID Card Exhibition is being installed this week and will be officially launched on November 21 as part of the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the Bonegilla migrant camp.

Thanks to funding from the Victorian Government’s Regional Tourism Investment Fund, 263,906 cards issued to new arrivals at Bonegilla have been digitised, meaning the records will be easily accessible to all visitors to the site.

Previously, the cards were only available from the National Archives of Australia on request but the digitisation means these important records will be easily accessible online.

The cards provide information such as names and dates, the places where migrants went after leaving Bonegilla and the ships they arrived on.

Some of the cards contain photos of the new arrivals, which are often highly sought-after by their descendants.

The exhibition will feature a wall of ID cards as well as a video display and facilities for people to research individuals. There will also be a system for visitors to create their own ID card replicas.

Shelley Knight, Team Leader Bonegilla Migrant Experience, says the exhibition will provide a strong focal point for former residents and their descendants who come to the site to revisit their migration journey.

“Sometimes people visit to see photos of their grandparents or parents when they were young so that can have a lot of emotion attached to it,” she said.

“If people are able to look up the records even if they can’t walk through the exact places their families came to (due to the demolition of most blocks at the camp), it’s still important to them to know more about their history.”

The exhibition, which will remain at the site permanently, is expected to boost the region’s visitor economy with hopes that it will add to the 11,500 people who visit Bonegilla every year.

The launch of the exhibition will begin a week of activities from November 21 to November 28 to commemorate the anniversary of the camp opening in 1947.         

The Bonegilla Migrant Experience is open Saturdays to Mondays from 10am to 4pm.

Find out more at bonegilla.org.au

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