Sunday, December 8, 2013

Benalla Migrant Camp Inc. What we do and why ...

The members of Benalla Migrant Camp Inc. Left to right: Sophie Arendt, Bronwyn Forman, Andree Klopsteins, Sabine Smyth, Mike Smyth, Anna Castles
Benalla Migrant Camp Inc.
Preserving the stories of the Benalla Migrant Camp forever

On Australia Day 2013 a photographic exhibition was held involving 100 images of life at the Benalla Migrant Camp. The Benalla Migrant Camp was open between 1949 and 1967, and the exhibition was in memory of the over 60,000 post-war Migrants from Europe, who lived there.
This unique,  moving exhibition told of the daily lives of 22 families, as captured in their personal photos.
The exhibition was a huge success, with over 1,000 visitors in 5 days.  Many visitors came from interstate.
In the lead up to and during the exhibition more than 100 people with a personal connection to the camp submitted forms to indicate they were also willing to share their family's stories, and contribute photos and memorabilia and that they were in favour of a permanent exhibition at the original camp site off Samaria Road, adjacent to Benalla Airport.

Benalla Migrant Camp Inc. formed in April 2013 in order to progress with this important work.

Our Mission

We will always keep in mind that this exhibition and our projects aim to preserve the memory of the migrants who lived at the camp.  We shall therefore use our volunteer support and financial resources only to this end. We shall not take on projects that do not align with the following objectives.

Our Key Objectives 2013 - 2023

  1. The collection of firsthand accounts and the digital preservation of historical material relating to the Benalla Migrant Camp, which is relevant and suitable for permanent exhibition.
  2. An exhibition at the site of the former camp at Benalla Airport, involving indoor and outdoor areas, which will be State Heritage protected as a Benalla Migrant Camp Memorial Site.
  3. The development of a marketing plan for the exhibition including advertised opening hours, a web presence, and a design/style concept for the site.
  4. An annual Australia Day Event that is informal and fun, and in harmony with our vision and mission.
  5. Collaboration with other migrant history projects, such as The Bonegilla Migrant Experience, for our mutual benefit.
  6. Fundraising to realise these objectives, including grant applications.


  1. Congratulations Sabina for your presentation at the Benalla Migrant Camp. Australians need to recognise and appreciate the contribution that migrants have made to our country and understand the hardships that they endured to settle in a country so different from their own. In doing so we need to apply it to new arrivals to our country recognising they also have the potential to contribute in a meaningful way to Australian society.
    Margaret Pyers

  2. I was thrilled to contribute photos to the exhibition, which is a vital record of the lives of migrants who lived in Benalla Migrant Camp between 1949 and 1967.
    Thank you, Sabine, for your tremendous efforts in keeping this chapter in Australia's migrant history alive.