Greek journeys at Bonegilla Heritage Park

Alex Dellios, one of our Immigration Museum volunteers, recently re-visited Bonegilla as part of her ongoing research for her thesis ‘Bonegilla Migrant Camp: Constructing Public History, Negotiating Collective Memories’ at the University of Melbourne.

Bonegilla Heritage Park’s newest exhibition From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla touches on more than just the Bonegilla experience of Greek migrants—it subtly explores issues of Greek migrant identity and adjustment in post-war Australia. Open since December 2011, but neglected by this researcher until now, this exhibit is small but surprising. A combination of images, text and objects fill one of the larger rooms in one of Block 19’s huts. Information is offered (in both Greek and English) on themes like ‘The Greek Farmers Project’, ‘Building a Greek Community’, and ‘Sponsorship vs Assisted Migrant Scheme’.

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla
Image: Alex Dellios
Source: Museum Victoria

Uniquely, the exhibition does not shy away from an exploration of the scheme and government policy that shaped post-war migrants’ settlement experiences. The personalised voice is provided through the testimony of migrants themselves—short and snappy quotes appear on blocks throughout the room. The objects alone seem incongruous, items that often come to mind when building Greek stereotypes in Australia: namely, the bouzouki. Other items also appear behind glass cabinets, presumably donated by Greeks ex-residents.

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla
Image: Alex Dellios
Source: Museum Victoria

The second, smaller room contains an unexpected gem—a collection of remarkable miniatures by Tasos Kolokotronis of his village in northern Greece. All of them are created from his memory. They’re very detailed miniatures, of village houses, a church, a school, and even the White Tower of Thessaloniki.

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla

From Petronis and Ekaterina to Peter and Catherine: Greek Journeys Through Bonegilla
Image: Alex Dellios
Source: Museum Victoria

Overall, Bonegilla’s newest addition is small but enjoyable exhibition that cleverly explores the story of Greek post-war migration. And it appears at a site for which the Melbourne Greek community, especially through the Bonegilla Ex-Residents Association, have displayed unparalleled fondness.

The exhibition, like the rest of the Heritage Park is free and open seven days a week.

Links

Bonegilla Migrant Experience

The Bonegilla Story

Destination Australia

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