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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Day 31

The Molonglo Internment Camp cost the British Government £157,387/2/3 (approx. AUD$12,771,269.68 in 2021) though it is unknown if this includes furnishings, supplies and running costs. After the war numerous newspaper articles questioned the future use of the campsite, with titles to the likes of “wasted internment camp”, “another white elephant, elaborate and little used” and even “pig alien camp.” By April 1920 there was speculation that the camp could be used to accommodate workmen and their families for the construction of the Federal Capital. The acquisition of the campsite was confirmed later that year and according to the Government Gazette released on 3 August 1921 the Federal Government paid £32,500 (AUD$2,637,231.59) to the British Government to take over the campsite, which became known as the Molonglo Settlement. A few of the camp buildings were transported to the Brickworks and other sites around the Capital, along with a few being sold to the New South Wales Government for profit. Within a year various repairs had to be carried out to the buildings and Molonglo would later be described as ‘one of the eyesores of the Federal Capital’ and ‘not a settlement of which Canberra may be proud.’ Single men were accommodated in cubicles, separated by thin wooden partitions, in long narrow buildings. While the families lived in poor temporary cottages which, in some cases, did not even provide shelter from the rain. One solution, coined in late 1924, was to “provide for a permanent workmen's suburb” on a site that had been allocated, that would see “a large number of wooden cottages of a more permanent character in which proper homes can be established” (Sydney Morning Herald, 15/12/1924): The Causeway. The first family moved into one of the ‘workers cottages’ at the Causeway in 1925 with many of the families living in the settlement following suit. Gradually over the years the Molonglo Settlement was dismantled and by 1937 there were only seventeen families living there and by 1949 only three. All that remains of the old camp today is the foundations of the water tank in the parkland on the corner of Newcastle St. and Canberra Ave. Fyshwick.