Canberra Report: Looking back on Greta Migrant Camp

Next year marks the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Greta Army Camp and the 70th anniversary of its transformation into a Migrant Camp.

Last week I lodged a motion in the Parliament calling upon the Federal Government to ensure the occasion is appropriately commemorated and celebrated. Paterson MP Meryl Swanson seconded my motion.

Throughout the course of WWII, up to 60,000 soldiers of the Second AIF trained in Greta. It was one of the Army's largest camps, meaning Greta played a significant role in the war effort and it's a history worth commemorating.

Then between 1949 and 1960, 100,000 new arrivals passed through the former army barracks. Most were fleeing the horrors of post WWII Europe. They came originally from Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and various Baltic States. Later under a broader program, people came from Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Russia and many other countries.

Originally, residents were transferred from other Australian camps. But later they came direct and on August 19, 1949, more than a thousand displaced persons arrived in Newcastle Harbour on the "Fairsea" and were transferred to Greta by train.

Our post-WWII migration program shaped modern Australia and Greta played a big part. Here its residents learned English and about our way of life. We embraced their culture and of course, their food. We are a richer country for the experience.

We are still enriched by the ongoing presence of many of the new arrivals and their children and grandchildren. In addition to commemorating the 70th anniversary, we hope to ensure people who have an affinity with the former camp have somewhere and something prominent to visit.

STRONGER COMMUNITIES PROGRAM

Expressions of interest are now open for the fourth round of the Stronger Communities Grants Program (SCP). Community groups and not-for profit organisations can apply for a grant between $2,500 and $20,000 to fund a capital works project which will improve local community participation and contribute to a more vibrant and inclusive community. Applicants are required to match the SCP grant in cash or in-kind on at least a dollar for dollar basis. Details of the application process can be found at www.joelfitzgibbon.com/grants


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