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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Day 30

The Molonglo Internment Camp was constantly described as a “model township” which possessed “all conveniences for happy life” (Herald, 03.01.1919) and life in the camp certainly wasn’t horrendous. It is reported that the internees caused little trouble with the garrison and that they occupied their time by cultivating gardens, establishing a theatre, building a library, and were even allowed to take walks through the bush and shop in Queanbeyan. After the closure of the camp at the end of the war, the contents were auctioned off in March 1919 and the listed items provide a slight glimpse into life inside the camp:15 Sewing Machines, hand & stand, Singer & other best makes; 10 Single bedsteads with horse-hair mattresses; 10 Stretchers; 25 Wicker & wooden clothes chest of every description; 1 Cabinet Gramophone & 250 records; 5 Cameras, Kodaks with full outfits, also new Post Card size Kodak Developing Tank, new; 25 Wicker chairs; 20 Verandah chairs; 50 Galvanised tubs, all sizes; 25 Mincers; 100 Saucepans & kettles, big number aluminium; 20 Cots, some beauties; 1 New perambulator, recently cost £6 6s; Carpets, hearth rugs & linos; 20 doz Delf & Enamel Plates, all sizes; Very large quantity cups & saucers, jugs & glass ware; Writing tables, easels & blackboards; 4 Tennis nets & posts; 1 Tennis roller; 3 doz Tennis balls; 10 rackets, all best makes; 200 feet of India rubber hose; Big assortment of pictures, frames & carvings; Some beautiful clocks; 5 Chests of tools; 20 Hand saws; Axes, rakes & shovels of every description; 1 Splendid tarpaulin,14x18; 1 250 egg incubator; 50 White suits; Bed linen, & thousands of other lines.
Most items listed are basic everyday essentials - food, warmth, etc - though their mere existence demonstrate a sense of respect toward the internees. The ‘gramophone with 250 records’, ‘beautiful clocks’, ‘camera’, ‘frames’ and ‘tennis gear’ in addition to electricity, running water and sewage certainly help explain the claim ‘a happy life’. The facilities certainly weren’t all glam, with one former internee Daisy Schoeffel (nee Pearce) having described the camp to be “very badly built and kept out neither rain nor wind.”