The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionconsists of an assemblage of approximately 1,700 heritage objects and archival materials made and used by internees and prisoners of war (POWs) in the seven World War II internment camps at Tatura. It is held at the Tatura Irrigation & Wartime Camps Museum. The Tatura Museum's register books which contain the catalogue form part of the Collection.
In September 1939, Australia joined Great Britain in declaring war on Germany and immediately passed legislation to enable the internment of Australian civilians who might represent a threat to national security. In June 1940, the Australian Government agreed to also accommodate Britain's civilian internees as well as the thousands of civilians detained by the allies in Palestine, Persia, South Africa, Singapore, and other parts of South East Asia and the Pacific. Seven camps were set up near Tatura, four held civilian internees including families, while the other three accommodated prisoners of war. The camps closed progressively from 1945 to 1947 and many of the internees and some prisoners of war settled in Australia after their release. The Tatura & District Historical Society opened their museum in 1988 in the former office of the Rodney Irrigation Trust. Former internees began to visit the Museum (and the nearby German War Cemetery) and donate objects. It quickly became evident that a significant episode in Australian history had been forgotten, not just by the Museum but by the broader community as well. Over the next twenty years the Museum expanded and the wartime camps collection grew into a large assemblage of heritage objects and archival material.
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionconsists of approximately 1,700 heritage objects and archival materials made and used by internees and prisoners of war in the seven World War II internment camps at Tatura. It is held at the Tatura Irrigation & Wartime Camps Museum. It includes paintings and other art works; objects crafted from wood, metal and leather; woven and knitted textiles; embroidered and sewn clothes; uniforms; looms and sewing machines; jewellery; toys; theatre designs and posters; puppets; musical instruments; sporting items; kitchenware; gardening equipment and tools including a lathe; books; newspapers printed in the camps (some illegally), letters, photographs and models of buildings. The Collection also contains materials made after the war which include archives, photographs and oral history recordings in a variety of formats - hard copy, video, audio, CD and digital.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Yorta Yorta people.
How is it significant?
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collection is of aesthetic, technical, historical and social significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history.
Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history.
Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This includes the significance of a place to Indigenous peoples as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions.
Why is it significant?
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionis significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionis historically important for its associations with the World War Two internment and prisoner of war camps located near Tatura in Victoria and at Dhurringile (VHR H1554) mansion. The Collection documents all the different nationalities, political beliefs and religions of the people held in the camps. It also shows how the majority of internees and prisoners resolved to make the best of their circumstances by maintaining traditions, by going about everyday life as routinely as possible; and by occupying their time making necessities, studying, learning skills, creating art, entertaining each other and recording their experiences in art and writing - all within the limited resources of the camps. It is the largest collection in Victoria of movable heritage relating to Australia's wartime camps, almost all of it created by and donated by former internees and prisoners of the Tatura group of camps, some of it coming from other parts of the world. [Criterion A]
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionis also historically important for its associations with a number of significant historical events. Some of the objects and oral histories provide new perspectives on wartime events of significance to Australia, such as the sinkings of the Kormoran, Sydney and the Arandora Star; the Dunera scandal; the North African campaign and the Japanese POW escape from Cowra in NSW. [Criterion A]
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collection is a rare contribution to the little known history of war camps in Victoria, the policies implemented by the Commonwealth Government during World War Two, and the stories of the people associated with the camps such as the Dunera Boys. Other objects display a unique combination of ingenuity, resourcefulness and skill in their fabrication due to the limited materials available in the camps. The objects display the cultural traditions and crafts of their makers' homelands. The oral histories which have been collected by the Tatura Museum staff contribute to the history of the camps and provide important context and detail about the objects. These histories also document another little known aspect of the war camps - the way that the internees were treated with dignity by the Australian army garrison. The creation of the Collection by members of the Tatura community demonstrates a strong commitment to preserving Victoria's heritage and memorialising the camps and all the people associated with them. [Criterion B]
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionincludes paintings, other art works, craft, and textiles which display a high degree of creative and technical accomplishment within the context of the internment camps during the period 1940 to 1946. Other items made in camp workshops from wood, metal and leather display an extraordinary degree of technical accomplishment and creativity, all produced using resources available within the camps. They are not mass-produced objects but unique items made within the confines of the camps. [Criterion F]
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionhas an important association with former internees and POWs as well as the garrison and the people of the Tatura area who worked on the construction of the camps, or supplied essential services to them. The Collection has grown in importance to many of these people as an assemblage of objects that represents the collective memory of the camps and other war-time events. The majority of these people remained in Victoria and have made many generous donations to the Museum. [Criterion G]
Without diminishing its association with other nationalities (mainly Italian and Japanese), the Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collection is particularly associated with the German community in Victoria. It reflects the variety of religious and political groups within this community during the WWII period - Templers, Lutherans, Nazis, Jews and Catholics. The majority of the internees and POWs were of German or Austrian origin and the majority of the Collection was created by them. The Collection has particularly strong associations with the Dunera Boys and the Templer German families from Palestine (now Temple Society Australia), many of whom settled in Victoria after their release from internment. [Criterion G]
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionis also significant for the following reasons:
The Collection is associated with a number of places in the City of Greater Shepparton local government area which are of State and Local significance:
. Dhurringile mansion (VHR H1554)
. German War Cemetery (VHR H2347)
. Number One Internment Camp (VHR H2048)
. War Camp Number Two (HI H7924-0092)
. Prisoner of War Camp No. 13, including the Kormoran Memorial (HO57)
. The Italian National Ossario (HO64)
The Tatura World War II Internment and POW Camps Collectionholds copies of photographs, documents and artworks owned by Australian public institutions and published books directly related to the Camps and created after the Camps closed. These items contribute to the significance and interpretation of the Collection but are not of state level significance themselves.