Bonegilla Heritage Park: Contesting and Co-ordinating a Public History Site
Since the 1980s, efforts to publically commemorate the former migrant training and reception centre of Bonegilla, while intermittent, have increased. I am referring to: reunions and anniversaries, state and national heritage listings, the erection of museum displays, temporary and touring exhibitions, the on-site Heritage Park, and forms of popular culture. For the national audience, as well as several ethnic communities, Bonegilla now plays a role in the collective imagination of the post-war period and the migrant journey. Furthermore, the nature of Bonegilla’s public representation has evolved since the late 1980s. Bonegilla has become much more than a place of personal migrant memory, and its previous negative connotations in the public arena have been erased. This public evolution is linked to much wider processes in our national history. This article thus explores the contestation and co-ordination of collective memories—that is, multiple narratives of Bonegilla’s past, which, while in constant dialogue with each other, are framed and sanctioned by the limits of Australian multiculturalism and heritage discourses. While the earliest efforts to commemorate Bonegilla might be typified as ‘participatory’ and vernacular, they might now be described in reference to ‘retrospective commemoration’, in which Bonegilla’s public history is framed by state-sanctioned narratives and other attendant discursive frameworks.
Bonegilla, heritage park, public history, collective memory, narrative, commemoration, multiculturalism, immigration.