Historic interviews with former Wacol Residents

State Library of Queensland  – Audio cassette tapes containing interviews with migrant women at Wacol Migrant Camp.

Christine (Christa) Braun, nee Klein

Five cassette tapes, two typed interview logs, one document containing personal background, details and interview summaries, four black and white photographs. Christa is German. She migrated to Australia in the 1950s with her husband and small daughter. She talks of her experiences in Wacol Migrant Camp, surmising that she thought of it more as an adventure, due to her youthfulness on migrating (she was in her early twenties). She speaks of how well her family was received in Australia. Christa tells of many people she knew having affairs and of how her husband illegally lived at the hostel in order to save money. She tells an anecdote of a Catholic priest who confronts them on this issue. She also speaks of the long distances between the huts and the toilets/showers/laundry (10-15 minute return walk).

Agatha Melczarek

Two cassette tapes, one typed interview log, one typed personal background, and one black and white photograph. Agatha is Dutch and was born in Rotterdam in 1943. She migrated to Australia with her parents and siblings when she was sixteen years old. She was required to sign an employment agreement, independent of her parents’ contract (ie. she was required to remain in Australia for a period of at least two years). She arrived in Nov 1959 and stayed at the Wacol camp for only two days. She was given a job by camp employment officials as soon as she arrived at Wacol (nannying small children), and was required to leave the hostel to commence employment. Her family remained at Wacol for more than six months after Agatha left. After her retirement she became the secretary for the Dutch Club in Brisbane.

Johanna Streim

One cassette tape and three colour slides. Johanna is a Swiss born in North Germany. She migrated to Australia in 1970 with her husband and three daughters. She came to Australia by plane, rather than ship and stayed in both Bonegilla (Albury) and Wacol. She didn’t migrate with a group, just her family. She stayed in Bonegilla for 2 months and Wacol for 3-4 months. Johanna worked in the city while she was at Wacol. Therefore, she does not remember a great deal about living in Wacol migrant camp. She speaks of the misinformation given to her and her husband by the immigration officials in Europe regarding work.

Joyce Woolmer

Two cassette tapes and three black and white photographs. Joyce migrated to Australia from England with her husband and four children in 1963. She lived in Wacol for two and a half years where she worked, both as a crib-maker (making lunches for the children and the workers) and as a dining room attendant. Officially, migrants were permitted two years at Wacol. Joyce’s time was extended by six months because she was employed in the hostel. She speaks of the difficulty in finding employment in Australia and also of finding affordable accommodation outside the hostel. Although she says that it was difficult to save enough money to leave the hostel


Johanna Spykerboer (Consent has not been issued to release this item, therefore access is restricted)

Three cassette tapes, one typed interview log, and one photocopy of the accommodation history card. Hanna was born in Rotterdam, Holland, migrating to Australia in 1958 with her husband. Her three children were born in Australia. Hanna’s husband came to Australia as a minister for the Presbyterian church, sponsored jointly by the government and church to assist ‘new’ Australians. Her experiences were thus quite different from other migrant women. The first half hour of the tape is an impromptu interview. She speaks about leaving Holland, of the Dutch ship she came to Australia on, and skims over other aspects of her life including the War, marriage, and her extended family. During this recording, she showed me many photos of her family. The last hour or so is a more formal interview where she talks largely of the important role she feels her church played in the migration and ‘assimilation’ of ‘new’ Australians. Hanna worked at Wacol as a recreation officer for a short time, although she only lived there herself for 6 weeks.

Donna Kleiss

Item 16: ‘Dependants and Separation, The Wacol Immigrants Holding Camp (1947-1962): A History of Government Policy and Women’s Experiences’ by Donna Kleiss, 1992 (120pp), including synopsis. ‘A Short History of the Wacol East Site’ by Donna Kleiss, 1993 (1pp). One hand drawn schematic view and division of a typical accommodation hut at the Wacol Immigration Centre, 1955. Interview questions guide used for the interviews.

Anna Curtis and Zofia McCormack

Two cassette tapes, handwritten interview logs, typed personal backgrounds of Anna Curtis and Zofia McCormack, photocopy of Anna and Sofia’s Accommodation History Card, and one black and white photograph of Zofia and her sister, Anna Curtis, standing outside Wacol, 1991. Zofia and Anna are Polish, born in Germany. They migrated to Australia with their parents in 1949 when they were 6 and 7 respectively. They speak largely about their experiences as migrant children in Brisbane. They spent 2 years boarding in a Catholic convent while their mother lived in Wacol and their father worked at Amberley. (The Polish priest in the camp organised this arrangement of boarding). They saw their parents weekly and stayed in the camp during the school holidays. They talk about sleeping in a Nissan hut storeroom in the holidays and of the basic nature of the accommodation and facilities at Wacol Migrant Hostel.

Luberta Goote

Four cassette tapes, typed interview logs, three black and white photographs, and one typed document containing Mrs Goote’s personal background. Mrs Goote was born on Holland, migrating firstly to Indonesia, and then to a Dutch colony with her husband and daughter in the late forties. They had two more daughters whilst in Indonesia. They were ‘forced’ out of Indonesia after independence, migrating to Australia in 1957. Mrs Goote had two more children in Brisbane. Mrs Goote’s family was sponsored by her husband’s company in Indonesia to migrate to Australia. They didn’t migrate with a large group, as many migrants did, but rather migrated to Australia (alone) directly from Jakarta. She lived at Wacol for nine months and while staying there, she was nominated as an interpreter by the superintendent of the camp, largely to deal with migrant complaints. Mrs Goote also helped to co-ordinate the (English) Queen Mother’s visit to Wacol.

See also: Beppe Goote – ‘Dutch Mayor’ at Wacol, Brisbane

Stanislawa Karczewski

Four cassette tapes, one handwritten interview log, one typed personal background and history, one black and white photograph. Mrs Karczewski is Polish. She lived for some time in a displaced persons camp in Germany (a former SS training camp) after the war, before migrating to Australia in 1949 with her husband and daughter. In this interview, she spends some time talking about the war and of her time spent in the displaced persons camp. Her husband was a Polish officer (they met in the camp) and was in five different concentration camps – this was their impetus for migrating to Australia. While in Wacol, Mrs Karczewski had a baby in the Royal Brisbane Hospital. The child died when she was in Enoggera migrant camp and she speaks of this at length. Another of her children was improperly immunised at Wacol, leading to a serious bout of whooping cough and she almost died as a result.

Halina Netzil

Five cassette tapes, one typed interview log, one typed personal background. Halina migrated to Australia in 1949 with her husband and son. She was one of the first people to stay in the Wacol migrant hostel, which she says was originally set up as a women’s and children’s camp. She talks at length of the alienation she and many of the other women experienced as a migrant in the camp, compounded by their status as displaced persons. She talks of the men being separated from their wives and children, and of being with them only on weekends, although men were not strictly allowed at the camp. She speaks of sex, abortion, and pregnancy occurring in the camp. Halina worked as a nurses’ aid in the hospital at the camp, where she was employed largely to translate. Since Halina worked at the camp, she was entitled to a larger room than other migrants.

Helga Parl

Five cassette tapes, one typed interview log, one typed personal background. Helga is from East Germany. She moved to Holland after marrying in Germany. She migrated to Australia from Rotterdam in 1959 with her husband. Helga did not stay in the Wacol camp for long (only one week), but nonetheless, she describes the conditions in detail. In the interview, she concentrates largely on the discrimination she experienced in the workforce, coming from the more ‘liberal’ countries of Holland and East Germany. She speaks of an official employment officer who told her to ‘go home and have babies’ rather than look for work as a draughtsperson.


One cassette tape, one typed interview log, one typed personal background. ‘Lucy’ is Dutch and was born in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in 1920. She was a POW with the Japanese in WWII in Indonesia. With the decolonisation in Indonesia, she migrated to Holland with her husband and children. She lived in Holland for seven years before migrating to Australia. She arrived in Australia in April 1957 and stayed at Wacol for 10 months. ‘Lucy’ also owned a snack bar in the suburb of Wacol after she left the migrant hostel. ‘Lucy’ was also a qualified Home Science teacher, and has since retired.

Ibi Repcsik

One cassette tape, two colour slides. Ibi migrated with her husband from Hungary in 1973. They left Hungary illegally on the pretence of a two week holiday in Austria, where they applied to migrate to Australia. They lived for seven months in a refugee camp in Austria before they migrated. The only information they had about Australia was a government issued pamphlet. Ibi stayed in Wacol for about seven months. Whilst in Wacol, she gave birth to her daughter. She speaks largely of this experience.

‘Louise V’

(This item is restricted until 2030)- One cassette tape. ‘Louise V’ was born in Belgium and is a library assistant. She lived in Switzerland before migrating to Australia in 1966 with her husband and children. Before staying at Wacol, she stayed in Bonegilla (1 month) and Villawood (2 months) in New South Wales. ‘Louise V’ stayed in Wacol for 12 months.

See also:

Dutch Migrant History – Queensland

Wacol Migrant Centre Remembered 1949-1987

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