When: 1pm to 2pm
Where: Hetzel Lecture Theatre
State Library of South Australia
Presented by Karen Agutter
Between 1947 and the mid-1980s over 4 million refugees and migrants from across the world arrived in Australia completely changing the face of the nation from its largely British origins towards the multiculturalism we enjoy today. For those who came as refugees, or travelled under an assisted passage scheme, short term accommodation was offered in State and Commonwealth government run migrant centres on arrival. At the peak period of post-war migration there were over 90 of these centres across the country, including 13 in South Australia. In addition, there were also many hundreds of employer funded work camps often located in remote areas. In this talk I shall share my experiences of searching out and understanding how these accommodation centres and camps operated. Using the South Australian centres as examples I will reflect on how we can tell the stories of the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who passed through them. I will discuss what daily life was like when a Nissen hut or roughly converted building was your home. Where your bathroom and laundry facilities were communal, cooking was not allowed, and your meals not only consisted of new taste “experiences” but were served en masse in large dining halls. Through this discussion I hope I can help genealogists understand how they might go about discovering their own family stories within this accommodation system, and the post-war period more generally.
Karen Agutter is an historian specialising in the study of migration. She holds PhDs from both Flinders and Adelaide Universities and has published widely on Australian and migration history, with a particular focus on the post-World War Two era. Karen is a registered Professional Historian and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide. She is part of a team of scholars working to uncover the history of the migrant accommodation centres and work camps and to tell the stories of those who passed through them.
Image: Migration Museum photographic collection PN04092