Camps left to rot Historic sites are in a terrible state

By Michael Mattingly

PRISONER of war and internment camps near Tatura have fallen victim to neglect, decay and rubbish dumpers.

The Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum is visited regularly by dignitaries of embassies including those of Japan and Germany who want to pay tribute to family members and visit the war camps where they were interned.

Tatura and District Historical Society president Steve Barnard said he was embarrassed after taking people to Camp 13 last week after the annual commemoration service at Tatura War Cemetery.

‘‘We had two visitors who came over specifically for it; their respected fathers were crew members on the Kormoran and they survived and they were taken prisoner in Camp 13,’’ Mr Barnard said.

He said the site was a disgrace with rubbish covering the prison cell block that was visible from the roadside.

‘‘These two people came over to see this site which was significant to them and of course we took them down to visit the scene, but there’s rubbish, it’s overgrown and disappointing,’’ Mr Barnard said.

The four camps remaining in the area include the Dhurringile mansion that was a prison camp for German officers and two more that were civilian internee camps.

Mr Barnard said negotiations were taking place at the moment with Heritage Victoria to gain access to the H.S.K. Kormoran Memorial, located now on private property.

‘‘Camp 13 has the Kormoran memorial, which was a memorial structure about two-three foot high and was built by survivors of the Kormoran, and quite often relatives from Germany will want to come over and lay flowers,’’ he said.

Camp 13 also hosts a number of built-in garden beds and the prison cell block, which stands on vacant land.

‘‘I think it’s just on open shrub-land, no-one knows who the owner is if there is an owner,’’ Mr Barnard said.

As the camps stand today, no markers point to the historical land.

Mr Barnard said the camp should be redeveloped as a major tourist attraction.

‘‘When people come over from Melbourne and Canberra embassies they say ‘where are the camps, we want to see the camps’,’’ he said.

‘‘It just needs cleaning up and I think everybody who sees it recognises that something should be done with it.’’