By Colin MacGillivray
A LITTLE-KNOWN element of Mitchell Shire’s World War Two past could soon take pride of place in Wandong’s Memorial Park after Mitchell Shire Council authorised the relocation of a historic building.
The number four camp office building was initially constructed as part of an internment camp to house enemy prisoners of war at Mount Disappointment during World War Two.
When the internment camps were decommissioned following the war, most of the buildings were demolished or taken away, but the number four camp office was moved to Wandong and has been owned privately since.
Wandong History Group has been attempting to have the building relocated to the centre of town to serve as a monument for more than 12 months.
Last year the group received a grant of about $50,000 from the Federal Government’s Saluting Their Service program, but needed council approval before being able to move the building.
Wandong History Group president Karen Christensen said there were plans to refurbish the building and use it to display information about the region’s military history.
“The plan is to set it up with all of our military paraphernalia that we’ve been gathering up over the past few years and turn it into a bit of a military interpretive centre,” she said.
“The park is ideally suited with the war memorial and the bushfire park. It’s the perfect place for it.
“We’re hoping that very soon we can start to get something done, because the problem with having a building like this in private hands is that if the people who currently own it decide to move, that opportunity may be lost. New owners might decide they want to keep the building.”
Mitchell Shire councillors unanimously voted to approve the relocation of the building at last month’s ordinary meeting.
Ms Christensen said Wandong History Group members were relieved to have reached an agreement with council.
“There’s a fair bit of work ahead for us yet, but we’re over the biggest hurdle now after 12 months of negotiating with council,” she said.
“We’re going to have to look for further funding once we get it moved to bring it up to the standard that council want it to be at.
“The grant will move it and get some of the work done to make it watertight and lockable, but then to do things like put in an all-ability access ramp, we’re going to have to seek more funding.”
Councillors praised the project as a collaboration between council and residents.
“The Wandong History Group have put in an enormous amount of work, and they’ve been extremely patient with our deliberations,” Cr Annie Goble said.
“The work into relocating this historic building down to the reserve will most importantly protect it, but will also give it visual presence for the local community and people who are visiting the area.”
Cr Fiona Stevens said the Wandong community had ‘stepped up’ on a project that was very important to them.
“History is something we should cherish and look after, and council has a legislative responsibility in this particular space as well as, I think, a moral responsibility,” she said.
“The internment camps … were very significant to our history, the history of Mitchell Shire.”