Migrant's daughter praises Bonegilla Reunion

We talked to everybody and the stories we walked away with were just unreal.
Janine Arkinstall

With only eight minutes to spare, Janine Arkinstall from Mildura and her entourage were thrilled to learn they had arrived in time for a guided tour of Bonegilla's former migrant camp.

The daughter of a Czechoslovakian had travelled almost eight hours to be a part of the Bonegilla Reunion on November 2 and 3 to learn more about the place her late father had once called home.

Mrs Arkinstall attended the reunion with her husband Shaun and her sister Elizabeth.

"We talked to everybody and the stories we walked away with were just unreal," she said.

"Shaun and I are in our forties and we were talking to people in their eighties who have experienced it and the stories we heard were just hard to imagine.

"We met and made a connection with a man from Czechoslovakia who came out two years before Dad.

"He went to Mildura where we are and then went back and relocated to Melbourne. We took photos with him and his daughter and plan to stay in contact."

While Mrs Arkinstall, pictured first on the left, did not find anyone at the reunion who had met her late father, Milos Tvrznik, she has walked away with a better understanding of the place which offered him a new life.

"We connected with people who came out the same year as Dad and they talked about what they experienced," she said.

"It was well worthwhile coming down to have a look.

"Just to see where they would have slept and what they ate and I didn't realise that Bonegilla was actually a community, I just thought it was like a detention centre like what you might see on TV but it was quite the opposite.

"We talked to one gentleman who was still angry about the whole situation but the majority of people had positive experiences."

Mrs Arkinstall said a lot of stories came out about the food they were provided back in the day.

"We were going through the kitchen and the menu was up there of what they used to have and it said porridge and milk and someone said they didn't get porridge and milk, it was porridge and water and that the taste was revolting," she said.

Mrs Arkinstall admitted to becoming very emotional and teary during the event and thanked staff for organising the great event.

"There was so much to see and do - from the great people we met to the ladies that ran the walk - it was just a great weekend," she said.

Feedback from the reunion has been very positive, with many lovely comments passed onto staff including the following message from Sydney's Maree and Sid Edwards.

"Both Sid and I thoroughly enjoyed our two-day visit during the reunion weekend. It was interesting to see the displays and meet other people connected to the migrant hostel. We also want to acknowledge the very friendly, courteous and helpful volunteers present over the weekend. They all did such a great job welcoming everyone and taking time out to talk to us."