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Guests from near, far

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November 16, 2017

Paul Stevens had his 8th Birthday Party at the Migrant Camp. He managed to recreate the photo at the 50 year reunion.

Paul Stevens had his 8th Birthday Party at the Migrant Camp. He managed to recreate the photo at the 50 year reunion.

The Benalla migrant camp attracted huge numbers of visitors from across the world for the first time since it closed its doors 50 years ago.

The migrant camp 50-year reunion held last Friday was a great success with bright afternoon sun shining on a sea of smiling faces, many of whom had not seen each other since the camp closed.

Reunion organiser Sabine Smythe said the attendance exceeded her expectations with people returning from many different locations.

‘‘We had a man called Paul Stevens who came from America just for the reunion,’’ Ms Smythe said.

‘‘We had people fly in from outback Queensland, a whole family came from Mackay. We’re just really pleased with the effort people made.

‘‘Paul Stevens had a photo of his eighth birthday party in the camp and at the reunion he was able to get the same people around the table and he recreated the photo.’’

The event was held in the Benalla Aviation Museum and featured live music, including an accordion player, people in traditional European outfits, a food van selling german sausages and a screen playing clips of the original migrant camp.

The atmosphere was celebratory and the evening was full of people embracing as they found old friends and shared stories.

Ms Smythe said the highlight of the evening for her was seeing all the smiling faces.

‘‘People entered the venue with a smile on their face and that set the whole mood, it was such a happy occasion,’’ Ms Smythe said.

‘‘Someone walked into the migrant hut-11 exhibition on the day of the reunion, that person said that as a migrant it is difficult when you move to a new country to find a sacred place.

‘‘To him this exhibition and the site is a sacred place. It really moved me, as up to a few years ago there was nowhere anyone could go to feel that connection.’’

The reunion may be over, but the exhibition is a permanent feature of the Benalla airfield, the location of the original camp.

●For more information on the exhibition, visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/benallamigrantcampexhibition/

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