When I wrote about the secret internment camp at Western Creek in Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, I thought that was the end of it. It took several years and almost a detective hunt to put together the information and I met many brick walls from authorities. Some refused to believe the camp that detained hundreds of innocent men during WW2 even existed, others conceded that records for such camps were often scant and, in the years afterward, destroyed. Or not kept at all. (These camps being relatively secret and hidden out in Queensland’s west in forest or bushland when official internment camps at places like Enoggera were full.)
However, I had photographs that were taken inside the camp of internees, like the one pictured here from 1942 with my grandfather, Joe, Nonno Anni (back right) as well as when he returned to the site in 1964 (photo below). Along with his stories, I spoke to others such as a ninety-year-old Millmerran local who clearly remembered the Western Creek internment camp and the internees. Yet, at the time, I went out searching for the site there was little to guide me, no mention of this part of local history in the museum and most didn’t know about it.
So, years afterward, it is quite unexpected to have been contacted by Cecil Gibson of the Millmerran Museum and Historical Society, who, after learning about the camp through my book and subsequent searches, is planning to put together a display in the museum and a marker to memorialise the site of the Western Creek internment camp. This is so important, both for the sake of the young men interned, the army guards who treated them with respect and the women and children left to fend for themselves, many of them on farms, who did it tough in the absence of their men and their workers.
To me, it’s both remiss and insensitive that internees in Australia weren’t given some type of official apology like those in other countries were and, of course, for most it is too late now to hear one. Nonno Anni never bore any bitterness or ill will for his internment, he accepted it with grace as a factor of wartime, but I hope remembering what happened in this way gives back a little of what was lost.
When I look at the faces of these young men in the Western Creek camp in 1942 and think of all those thousands of others who went through similar experiences, it makes the efforts to preserve this small part of history worth it. Hopefully, in some way, Nonno Anni and the other internees would have been pleased!! Zoe xx