In the presence of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Australia, H.E. Mrs Marion Derckx, at an event hosted by the Pooh Corner Environment Centre and Dutchlink Brisbane a plan was launched to preserve the last remaining heritage items of Camp Columbia (which are situated in the Pooh’s Corner Bushland Reserve). This precinct is of international importance and its history has largely been lost. At the meeting it was suggested to investigate an international collaborative project to save the last remnants of the Camp and tell the very important story of the Camp through the creation of a heritage and cultural site within the Reserve.

International importance

Camp Columbia at Wacol, Brisbane was General MacArthur’s staging camp for the liberation of The South West Pacific and SE Asia. It is here that the Sixth United States Army was born and also Brisbane is the birthplace of the United States Seventh Fleet.

Already since the 1840 parts of the area were used of the Queensland Defence Force and the use of parts of the Camp, by its successor the Australian Defence Force, only finished a decade or so ago.

When the Americans left Camp Columbia the site was taken over by the Dutch who established the Netherlands East Indies Government-in-Exile, the only time ever that Australia hosted a government-in-exile. From here the Dutch staged the liberation of Netherlands East Indies (NEI). Most of the close to 20,000 Indonesian people that had fled to Australia worked in or for Camp Columbia and many of them played a key role in the war of independence of their own country.

Archerfield Airport at the edge of Camp Columbia was its main airport and the last Dutch squadron only left there in 1947.

After the war Dutch prisoners from the Japanese concentration camps in NEI were flown to Camp Columbia for recouperation. Soon after this the site and many of its buildings became part of Queensland’s largest Migrant Centre known as Wacol.

The plan going forward

Dutchlink Brisbane – with the support of the Pooh Corner Environment Centre – plans to form a stakeholders committee to prepare a cultural and heritage interpretation plan for the site. We have been invited to present the plan to the Dutch Government for a grant under their International Heritage Co-operations for 2022. This need to be lodged before August 15. As the project is of national and international importance, we are looking at further support from Brisbane City Council, State Government of Queensland, Australian Defense Force and the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Indonesia.

Any suggestions from your side and any further assistance you can provide is welcome.

Furthermore if you have direct or indirect connections with Camp Columbia or the Wacol Migrant Centre. The Dutch Australian Cultural Centre is very keen to record your stories, however small these may be.

Paul Budde

Board member DACC and Dutchlink Brisbane

Websites:

Dutchlink Brisbane

History of Camp Columbia

Culture and Heritage Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Canberra

Pooh Corner Environment Centre

You can contact us on this email address: dutchlinkbrisbane@dccq.org

Pictures of the Camp Columbia Event 19 May 2022 by Vaughan Kippers

Camp Columbia Gallery

These are the presentation from the event