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Bonegilla, the 'birthplace of multiculturalism', gets a $455,000 makeover

Bonegilla, the 'birthplace of multiculturalism', gets a $455,000 makeover

On Thursday, December 5, the Victorian government revealed its plans to upgrade the "birthplace of multiculturalism in Australia" – the Bonegilla Migrant Experience Centre.

Australian migration agents may be aware that Bonegilla, a small town in rural Victoria, was the location of the first migrant reception centre in our country. This opened in December 1947, following World War II.

According to the Department of the Environment, it was the "largest and longest-operating" migrant reception centre of the post-war era and defined the future of Australia's immigration policy.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said more than 300,000 migrants from over 50 countries called Bonegilla "their first Aussie home" after World War II.

It's believed that approximately 1.5 million people currently living and working in Australia are descendants of those migrants.

"Bonegilla continues to retain links with ex-residents and their families and has strong appeal to international visitors and others not related to the site," said Mr Ryan.

So, the Victorian government is providing the Bonegilla Migrant Experience Centre with $455,000 to see a brand-new Welcome Centre built.

This funding is part and parcel of the government's $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, an initiative that aims to get community-led projects off the ground and create jobs, drive innovation and encourage investment in rural Victoria.

The construction of the Welcome Centre will include landscaping and other ground works, the erection of new signs and commissioning of "interpretive public art" to decorate the space.

Mr Ryan explained the Victorian government's donation will help to kick start the Bonegilla Migrant Experience Centre's "Master Plan", which outlines a range of initiatives that should protect this town's important history.

"This project will preserve the experiences of those who travelled through the centre as post war migrants and foster an understanding of multiculturalism and Australia’s post-war history for many generations to come," said Mr Ryan.

Member of Benambra Bill Tilley is also excited about the "substantial economic benefits" the new Welcome Centre will have for Bonegilla.

He revealed that almost 11,000 people had visited the Bonegilla Migrant Experience Centre over the past year, and 13,000 more are expected over the next five years as a result of this upgrade.

The project will be completed by March 2015.

So, migration agents interested in seeing where it all began may want to head to Bonegilla at some point in the near future!

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