Displaced persons in Queensland

Stuart migrant camp


  • Jayne Persian University of Southern Queensland




Stuart migrant camp, post-war Queensland, memorialisation, displaced persons


This article examines the lived experience and recent commemorative efforts relating to the experience of displaced prsons who were sent to Queensland in the post-war period. 170,000 displaced persons — predominantly Central and Eastern Europeans — arrived in Australia between 1947 and 1952. They were sent to reception and training centres upon their arrival before commencing a two-year indentured labour contract. Memorialisation of these camps tends to present them as the founding places of the migrant experience in Australia; however, there has been very little historical work on displaced persons in Queensland, or on the Queensland migrant camps — Wacol, Enoggera, Stuart and Cairns. This article focuses on recent commemorative attempts surrounding the Stuart migrant camp in order to argue that, in relation to displaced persons, family and community memories drive commemorative activities.

Author Biography

  • Jayne Persian, University of Southern Queensland

    Jayne Persian is a historian of twentieth-century Australian and international history at the University of Southern Queensland. Her publications include Beautiful Balts: From Displaced Persons to New Australians (NewSouth Publishing, 2017). She is Co-Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Discovery project entitled ‘Displacement and Resettlement: Russian and Russian-speaking Jewish displaced persons arriving in Australia via the “China” route in the wake of the Second World War’ (2016–19).


Julie Johnston, Displaced (2016), 7.

Jayne Persian, Beautiful Balts: From displaced persons to new Australians (Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2017), pp. 74, 75.

Inese Petersons (1947– ), interviewed by Allison Murchie, 2002, South Australians Acting for Change: Welcoming Refugees Oral History Project, OH 636/2, State Library of South Australia; Persian, Beautiful Balts, pp. 77, 82–3.

Alexandra Dellios, ‘Commemorating migrant camps: Vernacular memories in official spaces’, Journal of Australian Studies, 39(2) (2015), 252.

Sara Wills, ‘Between the hostels and the detention centre: Possible trajectories of migrant pain and shame in Australia’, in William Logan and Keir Reeves (eds), Places of pain and shame: Dealing with ‘difficult heritage’ (London: Routledge, 2009), 266.

Glenda Sluga, Bonegilla: A place of no hope (Melbourne: University of Melbourne, 1988), p. 133.

Bruce Pennay, Benalla migrant camp: A difficult heritage (Benalla: Benalla Migrant Camp Inc., 2015), p. 2; Jayne Persian, ‘Bonegilla: A failed narrative’, History Australia, 9(1) (2012), 79.


Persian, Beautiful Balts, p. 198.

‘Considerations to govern the employment of displaced persons during the two years after their arrival in Australia, undated’, Displaced Persons Employment Opportunities Policy part 1 (1947–48), correspondence files, 179/9/3, Department of Immigration, Central Office, A445, National Archives of Australia.

James Jupp, Exile or refuge? The settlement of refugee, humanitarian and displaced immigrants (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1994), p. 34–5.

Catherine Panich, Sanctuary? Remembering postwar immigration (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1988), p. 124.

Bianka Vidonja Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade (Townsville: James Cook University, 1990), p. 14.

ibid., p. xiv.

Raymond Evans, A history of Queensland (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 128.

‘What states are doing’, Good Neighbour, 1 October 1951, 2.

Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade, pp. 19, 97; Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Branch, DIMIA, Wacol remembered: 1949–1987 (Canberra: Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 2003), pp. 25, 31.

Stuart State School Centenary Committee, Stuart State School: Centenary 1891–1991 (Stuart: Stuart State School, 1991), p. 36.

Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade, p. 2, n. 4.

Panich, Sanctuary, p. 125.

Balazategui, Gentlemen of the Flashing Blade, p. 21.

Panich, Sanctuary, p. 124.

‘Health advice to cane cutters in the sugar industry’, Employment: Displaced persons for the sugar industry; Balts [Yungaba accommodation], 1948-1949, Department of Immigration, Queensland Branch, 1948/5437, J25, National Archives of Australia.

Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade, p. 84.

ibid., pp. 36, 41.

Paul Öpik, ‘Ingham (Australia), 1948’ in Vasilios Vasilas (ed.), Across lands and oceans ::: to freedom: Stories and photographs from the Estonian journey to Australia & New Zealand (Riverwood: Ligare Book Printers, 2015), vol. II, 218.

Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade, p. 30.

ibid., p. 92.

Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Branch, DIMIA, Wacol remembered, p. 36.

Öpik, ‘Ingham (Australia), 1948’, p. 218.

Panich, Sanctuary, p. 125.

Andrew Markus, cited in Barbara E Bryan, ‘Recalcitrant women? The effects of immigration policies on displaced persons women 1948-1952’, unpublished MA thesis, Griffith University, 1996, p. 51.

‘Balt problems’, report of Miss H. Dobson from Ingham, Queensland dated 12 August 1948, Displaced persons, reports by social workers, Correspondence Files, 1948/23/4096, Employment Division [II], Department of Labour and National Service, B550, National Archives of Australia.


Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade, pp. 32–3.

‘Balts sour over sugar’, Courier-Mail, 28 April 1948, 1.

‘Letter from S. J. Dempsey, Department of Immigration to the acting Secretary, 3 January 1951’, Displaced persons employment policy part 3, Correspondence Files, 179/9/5, Department of Immigration, Central Office, A445, National Archives of Australia.

Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade, pp. 95, 74.

Panich, Sanctuary, p. 124.

Australian Sugar Journal, 15 December 1948, cited in Balazategui, Gentlemen of the Flashing Blade, p. 96.

‘A critic changed his mind’, Good Neighbour, 1 January 1953, 3.

Balazategui, Gentlemen of the flashing blade, p. 84.

‘Two new holding centres’, Good Neighbour, 1 November 1950, 4.

Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Branch, DIMIA, Wacol remembered, p. 18.

‘Local family remembers life in the Cairns Immigration Holding Centre during the 1950s’, Tropic Now, 27 May 2016.


Anton Binder, The story of the bloody new Australians: Memoirs of Stuart migrant camp (Townsville: Author, 2016).

‘Stuart start’, Townsville Eye, 10 August 2016; ‘Woodside’s stork is a busy bird’, Good Neighbour (ACT), 1 March 1951.

Rose Starke, ‘Memories of the migrant centre, Stuart, from Rose Starke’, in Stuart State School Centenary Committee (ed.), Stuart State School, 37.

Binder, The story of the bloody new Australians.


Alexandra Dellios, Histories of controversy: Bonegilla migrant centre (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2017), p. 6; Mal Staweno, ‘From Mal Staweno, president of the Polish Assoc, in Townsville’, in Stuart State School Centenary Committee (ed.), Stuart State School, 36.



Persian, Beautiful Balts, p. 78.

Panich, Sanctuary, p. 188-9.

Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Branch, DIMIA, Wacol remembered.

Donna Kleiss, ‘Migrant women at Wacol’, State Library of Queensland, 8 May 2015, http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/jol/2015/05/08/digitised-slq-migrant-women-at-wacol, accessed 1 November 2016.

Wodonga Council, ‘Bonegilla migrant experience’, The Bonegilla Migrant Experience, http://www.bonegilla.org.au, accessed 1 November 2016.

Andra Kins, ‘Gunta Parups: A Latvian in Australia’, Artlink, 11(1–2) (1991), 91.

John Gebhardt interview with Jayne Persian, 7 August 2008.

ibid.; Anvil Creek, Hunter Valley, ‘Welcome to the Greta Camp Image Gallery’, http://anvilcreek.com/campgreta/index.php, accessed 22 July 2008 [no longer available].

Sabine Smyth, ‘Finally on the State Heritage List’, Benalla Migrant Camp exhibition — news and updates, 17 May 2016, http://benallamigrantcampexhibition.blogspot.com.au, accessed 18 May 2016.

Eugenie Navarre, The cane barracks story: Sugar cane pioneers and their epic feats (Trinity Beach: Glass House Books, 2007), p. 39.

Terence Clark, ‘Ghosts and doppelgänger’, in Janis Balodis (ed.), The ghosts trilogy (Sydney: Currency Press, 1997), p. ix.

Balodis, The ghosts trilogy, p. 38.

ibid., p. 41.

ibid., p. 45.

ibid., p. 80.

Johnston, Displaced, preface, pp. 38–9, 49.

Vieda Skultans, The testimony of lives: Narrative and memory in Post-Soviet Latvia (London: Routledge, 1998), p. xii; Kateryna Longley, ‘The fifth world’, in Marko Pavlyshyn (ed.), Ukrainian settlement in Australia: Fifth conference, Melbourne, 16–18 February 1990 (Melbourne: Slavic Section, Monash University, 1993), 130 [my emphasis].

Kaylene Kotlarewski, ‘Stuart, North Queensland migration camp for displaced refugees’, National Archives of Australia, 17 June 2014, http://forum.naa.gov.au/forum/topics/stuart-north-queensland-migration-camp-for-displaced-refugees, accessed 1 November 2016.

‘Stuart migrant camp Townsville’, Facebook page, 13 February 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Stuart-Migrant-Camp-Townsville-957983340942183, accessed 23 March 2018.

Lucia Johnston, ‘Reply by Lucia Johnston’, internet forum post, 2 September 2014, http://forum.naa.gov.au/forum/topics/stuart-north-queensland-migration-camp-for-displaced-refugees?commentId=6362943%3AComment%3A71125, accessed 23 March 2018.

Tess Lyssiotis, cited in Glenda Sluga, ‘Bonegilla and migrant dreaming’, in Kate Darian-Smith and Paula Hamilton (eds), Memory and history in twentieth-century Australia (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1994), 204–5.

Manuscript of Michael Cigler, undated, Papers of Michael Cigler, MS 8235, National Library of Australia.





Museums and Engagement in Queensland: Critical Contributions to the Field

How to Cite

Persian, J. (2018). Displaced persons in Queensland: Stuart migrant camp. Queensland Review, 25(2), 239-251. https://doi.org/10.1017/qre.2018.27