In Northam, the Northam Army Camp was converted for use as a reception and accommodation centre and the 118th General Field Hospital was refurbished to become the Holden Holding Centre. The RAAF base at Cunderdin also became a reception and accommodation centre. It served as a pivotal hub for migrants arriving in Western Australia post-World War II. Originally chosen due to its ample accommodation capacity and strategic location as a railhead, Northam facilitated the dispersal of migrants throughout the state.

Despite the camp’s relative youth, many of its structures were in need of repair upon its repurposing. To address this, fifty migrants from the Swanbourne Barracks were tasked with its renovation, constructing essential facilities like dining rooms, a canteen, post office, and enhancing the hospital.

The inaugural wave of migrants arrived at Fremantle on August 24, 1949, comprising Displaced Persons and sponsored immigrants primarily from Western and Southern Europe. Transported via three trains to Northam Railway Station the following day, they completed their journey to the Northam Accommodation Centre via buses.

By 1950, the camp accommodated 4,000 individuals, prompting the construction of additional housing blocks. While officially referred to as the Northam Accommodation Centre by authorities, residents colloquially dubbed it Northam Camp or Top Camp.

Structured akin to military practice, the camp maintained strict organisation with designated lines, block leaders, reveille, inspections, and curfews initially overseen by ex-military personnel. Over time, the militaristic structure waned as civilian and migrant staff assumed roles.

Under the oversight of the camp director, responsible for administrative tasks and reporting to Canberra, various personnel managed day-to-day operations, including catering, stores, medical services, and hygiene. Each migrant received basic provisions and adhered to camp regulations, with block supervisors overseeing individual areas and newcomer allocations.

To the left is a photo of the actual space of a Hungarian Displaced Person.

Above a diorama the diorama Nonja Peters created in the permanent exhibition at the Visitor Centre in Northam – “A Sense of Place, Post-war Migration to Northam” exhibition.

The photos below are also from Nonja’s archive. The three boys are from the Jansen family who stayed at the Camp. The photo in the middle is from the Welie family.

The photos below are from de Van der Linden family while at Northam (Source: Nonja Peters).


Accompanying Family Wilhelmus “Bill” aged 9 Johanna “Ankje” aged 7 Lucia “Lucy” aged 4
The traveled on the Sibajak. Departure Port Rotterdam, Netherlands. Arrival Fremantle – 1953

Wilhelmus “Wim” and Antonia “Toni” van Lamoen arrived in Fremantle after changing their intended destination from Melbourne to Perth. Stayed at the Holden Migration Camp, Northam before moving to Scarborough.

Source: Welcome Wall Western Australia

Collection of photographs relating to the Holden Immigration Camp, Northam