- Former agricultural college was WA’s 1st WWII purpose-built internment camp
Western Australia’s first purpose-built internment camp for World War ll enemy aliens, which later became an agricultural college, has been State Heritage listed.
State Heritage Office Acting Executive Director Harriet Wyatt said the former Harvey Agricultural College site has had many roles over the years.
Mrs Wyatt said its most poignant role was as an internment camp for up to 800 mostly Italian internees, including Australian-born and naturalised Italians, who were perceived as a threat to Australia under Commonwealth Government policy during World War ll.
“By June 1940, nearly 15 per cent of Italians and a third of Germans and Austrians living in Australia were interned. Queensland and Western Australians pursued this policy more rigorously than other states,” Mrs Wyatt said.
“Internment caused considerable resentment among Italians and caused hardship for the families of interned men,” Mrs Wyatt said. “Despite the resentment, the Harvey internment camp was remembered as being relatively comfortable with plenty of food, and internees could earn money to send home to support their families.”
The South Western Highway site contains a number of the original buildings and structures including the jail and a roadside shrine built by the Italians. The shrine is believed to be the only roadside memorial shrine of its kind in Australia and is now enclosed in a chapel.
The camp closed in 1942 after the discovery of a large stash of weapons, including knives, tomahawks and bullets. It has been claimed that a shortwave radio, used to disclose information to the enemy, was found within the shrine’s altar.
The site was then used by the 3rd Australian Corps Training School to train troops in combat skills. One of the remnants from this time is the rare prefabricated Bailey Bridge.
After the war, the Rural Training Centre was established to offer practical farming knowledge and training for returned servicemen and women to enable their return to the rural workforce.
Mrs Wyatt said the site is best remembered as the Harvey Agricultural College, which operated for 60 years from 1952 to 2012.
The college played a key role in developing the Harvey area into one of the State’s main orchard and dairy regions.
The site is now occupied by not-for-profit groups and areas of the site are also used as a venue and function centre.
To read more about the history of the former Harvey Agricultural College, go to inHerit.