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Reproduced courtesy of Gina Sinozich

Model of Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre, Victoria

Date: 2010
Overall: 205 x 572 x 222 mm
Medium: Paper, foam, paint, ink
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Gina Sinozich
Object Copyright: © Gina Sinozich
Object Name: Model
Object No: 00026634

User Terms

    A paper and foam model of the Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre near Wodonga, Victoria. A handwritten label reads: 'Bonegilla N 3-4 / 1.9.2010'.
    The model is part of a collection of artworks, miniature models and mementos relating to Gina Sinozich’s migration from Istria, Croatia, to Melbourne, Australia on the Lloyd Triestino liner SS NEPTUNIA in 1956-1957, her reflections on her childhood before World War II, her later life in Sydney and her first return visit to Croatia in 2004.
    SignificanceThis item is part of a highly significant collection of new artworks, models and mementos that gives three-dimensional form to the stories and memories explored in Gina Sinozich’s series of paintings commissioned for the ANMM collection in 2003. Gina started painting in 2000 when she was 70 years old, after her husband Eugen was diagnosed with dementia and she recognised the urgent need to capture her memories of their life together and their family’s migration from Croatia to Australia in 1956-1957. While Gina’s commissioned series focused on the journey from Istria to Melbourne on the Lloyd Triestino liner NEPTUNIA, this new series of intimate, powerful – and tactile – works provides a different perspective by revisiting her childhood in Istria before World War II, her settlement in Australia and her first return visit to Croatia in 2004.
    HistoryIn 1956 Gina Sinozich and her family fled their home in Istria, Croatia to start a new life in Australia. After World War II, Croatia was absorbed into the communist republic of Yugoslavia, governed by Marshall Josip Tito. Life for the Sinozich family was difficult and food was scarce. Gina wanted a more secure future for her children, Michael and Jenny.

    In April 1956 Gina and her children slipped across the Italian border on the pretence of visiting her mother in Trieste. Her husband Eugen followed several months later. Gina could not risk telling anyone, even close family, that they were leaving.

    She applied for political asylum in Italy and was sent to a migrant hostel in Udine sheltering 3,000 other refugees. Via Prodamano No 21 was ‘not a happy place’, Gina recalls. Food was monotonous: ‘every day was macaroni and tomatoes and powdered milk’. Several families were bundled into the same room, and refugees lived in limbo waiting months, sometimes years, for their papers to be processed.

    After 18 months Gina finally found her family’s name – ‘Sinozich departing Genoa’ – on the hostel notice board. Asked to choose between Australia and Canada, Gina and Eugen chose Australia, ‘a new country’ that they believed offered greater opportunities for their children.

    On 19 July 1957 the Sinozich family departed Genoa, Italy, on the Lloyd Triestino liner SS NEPTUNIA. The ship travelled the Suez route and, after a month at sea, NEPTUNIA finally docked in Melbourne. The family was taken by train to Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre near Wodonga, Victoria, where they spent several weeks before moving to Sydney to start their new lives.

    Their journey mirrored the passage taken by hundreds of thousands of post-World War II European migrants, one which changed not only their lives but also had a profound effect on Australian society. Gina finally returned to Croatia in 2004, reuniting with family members and mending rifts caused by her secret departure almost 50 years earlier.
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