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Bonegilla: a case study
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 11:05 authored by Danja Derkenne
Bonegilla was Australia's first, largest and longest-lived post World War Two migrant reception and training centre, chosen because of its remote rural location. Bonegilla was designed to delimit interactions between Non-English speaking immigrants and the Australian population. The Bonegilla camp's purpose was to provide a tractable, mobile labour force, and to assimilate a large population of immigrant aliens and naturalise them, to use the vernacular of the post-war period. English was asserted as a lingua franca. Central to Australian concepts of assimilation are isolation, segregation and containment. This thesis researches Bonegilla using the methodology of site-specific reading, to engage with the tropes and narratives emergent at the heritsge listed site. Two canonical texts whose authors have a direct relationship to Bonegilla are examined. Close readings of Les Murray's poem 'Immigrant Voyage' and Christos Tsiolkas's short story 'Saturn Return' are undertaken. The scenes of reading implicit in each text and how each text is in dialogue with texts from Bonegilla specific to immigrant and Anglo-Saxon relations, are examined. This thesis proposes that contemporary transnational literary studies neglect the assimilation era, which remains a marginalised discourse, over-written by tropes of celebratory multiculturalism. This thesis demonstrates that assimilation policies created a lacuna evident within the texts examined, and in the contested discourses present at the Bonegilla site.