Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

A World for Children (c.1962)

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Arriving at the Migrant Reception Centre education content clip 1, 2

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

A group of migrants arrive by bus at the Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre. As they disembark and collect their luggage, a female voice-over explains they have come from many countries across Europe. The centre functions as a temporary place for migrants to stay until they can secure jobs and permanent accommodation. Some of the families are shown to their housing quarters by centre officers. Inside one of the housing quarters, two young boys play in their room.

Outside, three young siblings – Maret, Juri and Yanni – explore the grounds of the centre and the countryside. They walk up to a policeman who shows them where to go. The three children happily skip off in that direction.

Curator’s notes

This clip presents an idyllic view of the expansive grounds of the Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre. The music, calm voice-over and the experiences of the film’s main protagonists – the three blonde siblings – depict the centre as welcoming, comfortable and well serviced. This film had the cooperation of the Department of Immigration and was probably used to promote the work of the department in helping newly-arrived migrants adjust to a new life in an unfamiliar country.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows newly arrived immigrants at the Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre in Victoria in 1962. The narrator says that these migrants have come from many countries in Europe and will stay at the Centre until they find jobs and more permanent accommodation. After disembarking from buses, the migrants collect their luggage and are shown to their quarters by Centre officials. The clip then focuses on three children, siblings Maret, Juri and Yanni, as they set out to explore their new surroundings. It is accompanied by jaunty flute-and-cello music.

Educational value points

  • The Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre, established by the Department of Immigration in 1947 to process immigrants before they were permanently settled in Australia, was the first, the largest and the longest operating centre of its kind in Australia. By the time it closed in 1971, 320,000 migrants had passed through, remaining for about six weeks on average, until permanent employment could be found for them.
  • The clip represents Bonegilla as a benign and welcoming environment by depicting it largely through the activities of three siblings, who are shown skipping along to the sound of jaunty music as they explore their surroundings. This is reinforced by the narrator’s motherly tone, the use of phrases such as ‘new adventure’ to describe the immigrant experience, and the portrayal of centre officials as supportive and the policeman as benevolent rather than authoritarian.
  • The experience of many migrants at Bonegilla was strikingly different from that portrayed in the clip. They felt completely isolated in rural northern Vic and the accommodation was basic. It consisted of galvanised-iron or fibro-cement huts, arranged dormitory-style to sleep about 26 people, with no heating, sparse furniture and communal bathrooms.
  • The clip paints a rosy picture of Bonegilla life – however, in 1961, the year before the film was made, migrants descended on the Centre’s Commonwealth employment office with placards reading ‘We Want Work’ to protest a lack of jobs. About 100 migrants had been at Bonegilla for more than five months waiting for jobs and felt misled by the Department of Immigration’s promise of employment. During the protest, scuffles broke out between police and migrants.
  • The family shown in the clip were just a few of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who were part of the Australian Government’s large-scale post-Second World War immigration program. The Government felt that Australia’s population of 7 million people needed boosting to improve the nation’s economic growth and ensure it could be defended if attacked. Between 1947 and 1968, 2.3 million migrants arrived in Australia.
  • A World for Children was made by the Children’s Library and Crafts Movement with the support of the Department of Immigration, and may have aimed to promote greater acceptance of migrants among Australian children, particularly as, on leaving centres such as Bonegilla, migrant children went to school alongside their Australian peers. There was still some resistance to non-British migrants based on fears that they threatened Australia’s homogeneity.

Filmed from the point of view of a bus driving into Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre in Victoria. Families of newly arrived migrants disembark from the buses.
Narrator (voice-over) They have come from many countries in Europe, and speak several different languages. Men, women and children, to a new adventure in this big, strange land so far from their own. This is Bonegilla, a migrant reception centre in Victoria, Australia, where they will stay for a while until jobs and more permanent accommodation can be found for them.

The new arrivals stand around until they are greeted by the Centre’s director. They pick up their baggage and officials show them to their quarters.
Narrator (voice-over) They have travelled many thousands of miles to get here. Over the sea in a ship, by train from the coast, and finally by bus from the station. They look tired and a little bewildered at first. But officers of the centre have prepared for their coming. They welcome them, talk to them, help them to find their baggage, and show them to their quarters.

Shots of the centre grounds and wildlife. Three children wake up in their bedroom and are seen walking and skipping through the grounds. They ask directions from a man in uniform standing in the grounds.
Narrator (voice-over) These three children, Maret and her brothers Juri and Yanni, are looking forward to a day of exploring the centre and the countryside. As they move about the centre, they will meet various people whom they will come to know better during their stay here. First, the policeman, who shows them the best way to go.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

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  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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