On 24 October 1949, the Department of Immigration accepted the use of the Northam Army Camp from the Department of the Army in lieu of the partial occupation of Swanbourne Garrison Camp. The Camp was officially known as the Department of Immigration Accommodation Centre Northam. Like Cunderdin Camp and Holden Camp, it initially opened to house 'Displaced Persons' and then accommodated the influx of ‘New Australians’.
Both of which were integral parts of the Federal Government's post war immigration policy and its plans to stimulate Australia's population and development. Northam was considered to be strategically placed as it was near a railhead, thus enabling immigrants to travel to work in many parts of the state (20). As the camp was not in good repair, fifty men from the transport ship Mozzafari were brought to Northam to help prepare the camp to receive the large numbers of immigrants. This preparation included the construction of six large dining rooms, improvements to the hospital, and the establishment of a canteen and post office (21).
The Northam Accommodation Centre functioned as a Reception and Training Centre. All immigrants were interviewed individually by the Commonwealth Employment Service and Department of Social Security representatives. The employable generally commenced contract work within three to four weeks of admission to the Reception Centre. Their wives and children were then relocated to the longer term residences at Holden Holding Centre, also located in Northam (22). Holden Camp was opened on 10 August 1949 and finally closed in 1963, during which time it provided accommodation for over 8,000 wives and children until the men could secure accommodation for their families (23).
The ship ‘Anna Salen’ was chartered by the IRO to transport DPs to Australia. This voyage was her second DP voyage to Australia departing Naples on 1 August 1949 and arriving in Gage Roads, Fremantle, early am on Wednesday 24 August carrying 1566 DPs. The majority were mostly from Europe, Poland and the Baltic countries, in addition to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia and were composed of single males, single females, married couples and family groups. Thirteen children were suffering from measles, so they, along with their families, were accommodated at Graylands. Nominal Roll No 1164, Stankovic.M, M was admitted to Fremantle Hospital for observation for acute appendicitis.
Nominal Roll No 1360, Tschetnerikowa, G (child) aged three was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital suffering from bronchial pneumonia.
All other passengers proceeded to the Department of Immigration Reception and Training Centre, Northam, and Graylands per special trains and buses.
Report on S.S. "Anna Salen” – Fremantle – 24th August, 1949 Migrants from I.R.O. Camps, in Europe.
The S.S. "Anna Salen” arrived in Gage Roads, Fremantle, early a.m. on Wednesday 24th August, with 1,566 migrants from I.R.O. Camps in Europe on board.
The port Medical Officer, accompanied by immigration Officials boarded the ship at 6.30 a.m. and after granting pratique, the ship entered Fremantle Harbour and berthed at H Shed at 9.30 a.m. Owing to difficulties in erecting gangways disembarkation did not commence until 10.35 a.m.
The Customs Department dispensed with the formality of taking Customs Declarations and examined the migrants hand baggage prior to boarding the trains.
The first train consisting of 519 migrants left Fremantle at 11.30 a.m. This train arrived at Chidlows Railway Station at 1.50 p.m. and a light meal was provided by the Railway Refreshment Room. The journey was continued at 2.25 p.m. the train finally arriving at Northam at 4 p.m. The migrants were taken by bus to Northam Accommodation Centre, where things had been excellently organized for their reception.
Train no.2. departed at 12.30 p.m. and arrived at Northam at 4.30 p.m. carrying 503 migrants. Train no.3. departed at 1.50 p.m. and arrived at Northam at 5.55 p.m. carrying 492 migrants. All migrants had settled in the Accommodation Centre by 8 p.m. and hot meals had been provided.
Thirteen children suffering from Measles, were taken to Graylands Accommodation Centre and placed in an isolation ward. The parents and remainder of the families were also accommodated at Graylands. This course was necessary owing to the Northam Accommodation Centre not being sufficiently prepared to handle Infectious Diseases.
Nominal roll no. 1164, (National Archives of Australia) Stankovic.M, was admitted to Fremantle Hospital for observation for an acute appendicitis. Nominal roll no. 1360, Tschetnerikowa, S. (Child) aged three, was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital for Children suffering from bronchial pneumonic.
Therefore, the total number of migrants admitted to:
Northam Accommodation Centre - 1,516
Graylands - 48
Hospitals - 2
Mr. Trzecki, I.R.O. Escort Officer reported that the voyage was completed without incident. Two officers from the Department of Labour and National Service accompanied the vessel from Naples to Fremantle, where they disembarked Report S.S.”Anna Salen".
Mr. Grieshaber, I.R.O. representative boarded the vessel in Gage Roads and rendered valuable assistance during disembarkation.
The 1,600 immigrants who arrived at Fremantle aboard the Anna Salen on 24 August 1949 were the first to be accommodated at the Northam Army Camp (24). They were brought by train to Northam, given food at the accommodation centre, then sent to their designated barracks. Families were given a room in a barrack, whereas single people were given space in dormitory style barracks. A thin grey army issue blanket, hung to a height of six feet, served as a partition between different family groups. Beds were Army issue camp stretchers with straw filled mattresses. Facilities at the camp were primitive.
Northam Army Camp was not sewered, instead toilet pans were cleared weekly by the Northam Council and, as a result, there was a constant fly problem. There was no hot water available in the camp and toilets and showers in the ablution facilities had no doors (25). By 1950 the camp housed up to 5,000 immigrants and two new blocks of huts had to be built to accommodate the increasing numbers. Other facilities built included a State School (opened up in March 1950, with 400 children attending) and a recreation hall which was used for concerts, dances and films and Children’s Christmas parties (26).
Hungarian migrants at Top camp, Northam, c 1949. Courtesy Nonya Peters
The Northam Accommodation Centre closed in September 1951. It had been the first place of residence in WA for approximately 15,000 immigrants from the Baltic States, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, White Russia and Bulgaria (27).
During the peak immigration period, Northam had the largest immigrant receiving facilities within the State and the third largest in Australia. By May 1954, 23,000 migrants had passed through the Northam Camp (28). Once the Accommodation Centre had closed.
20. Australian Archives, A443, Item 51/15/5171.
21. Australian Archives, PP6/1, Item W49/H/3647; AA. PP6/1, Item 1950/H/6532.
22. Peters, N., Bush, F., & Gregory, J., Holden Army Camp, Centre for WA History, Nedlands, 1997, p. 19.
23. ibid, p. 23.
24. Northam Advertiser , 29 September 194 9, p.4.
25. ibid, 28 October 1949, p. 3.
26. ibid, 24 September 1949, p.4; 9 December 1949, p.1; 3 March 1950, p.6; 17 March 1950, p.8.
27. Australian Archives, PP340/1/0 Item 210/1/4 Pt.2
28. ibid, p. 33.
My name is Bohdan Hnatyk
I am doing historical research post-war migration of displaced persons in Australia. Especially I am interested in the facts of the trip aboard Anna Salen (1-24 august 1949). Also among the passengers was my uncle -Piotr Bozyk. Maybe there is information from the passengers of the flight. I am interested in the facts of travel and accommodation Northam Accommodation Centre. Displaced Persons who travelled to Australia on the ship Anna Salen departing Naples on 1 August 1949.
I and my son Hryhoriy Hnatyk conduct research on the life of my uncle Piotr Bozyk
Maybe you can give us information about our uncle to our:
We are interested in information about his stay in Northam Accommodation Centre WA /24.8.1949/- living in Accommodation Centre WA. Australia and other information about him (Friends)
The information send me please on the address:
Sheptytzky St 1/179
Bohdan Hnatyk and Hryhoriy Hnatyk
© Biographical-Documentary Project "Piotr Bozyk (1912-1989)"
© Bohdan Hnatyk and Hryhoriy Hnatyk