Give your family history a narrative

The granddaughter of Belgian immigrants who once stayed at the Bonegilla Camp has turned their story into a compelling read.

Come along to the Discover Bonegilla reunion where creative writer Melissa Justice will share her tips for taking dry facts and turning them into a captivating family history, complete with a narrative.

The free session on November 2 will be held at Tudor Hall from 11am. It will run for 45 minutes.

The idea to host this session was born from Melissa’s short non-fiction piece about her grandparents, which she wrote as part of her associate degree in creative writing.

She now plans to use it as the basis for a longer piece as she says there is much more to the story of her grandparents.

Melissa grew up in Wodonga, moving away to the outskirts of Melbourne about 15 years ago.

She has used recollections from her grandparents Leon (dec) and Maria Van Buynder, who left Belgium in December 1960 and arrived in Australia in January 1961.

“They arrived in January and said it was hot, so it was quite a shock to their system given they had come from Belgium,” Melissa said.

The SS Zuiderkruis was the ship they sailed to Australia on and the house in Mulqueeney St (pictured above) is where Melissa’s nanna, Maria, still lives to this day.

Melissa’s mum Yvette and her brother Paul were born in Belgium and immigrated to Australia with her grandparents.

Melissa’s grandparents had two other children, Diana and Patricia, who were born in Australia.

“After they got off the ship and got on the bus to come to Bonegilla, they were told my grandfather could be sent anywhere for work, like the Snowy Mountains scheme. My nanna was beside herself and apparently she cried all the way because she didn’t want to be separated.

“My grandfather said he would do everything he could to get work nearby so that they family could stay together.”

The family called the Bonegilla Camp home for just three weeks after her grandfather found work at Bradford Kendall.

Melissa, who lives on the outskirts of Melbourne, is looking forward to coming back to her hometown for the Discover Bonegilla reunion where she will include information on deciding the format of your family history and how to research your family history.

“I will be talking about how to develop your family story into a narrative and will invite participation from attendees to share their stories about what they are writing,” she said.

Resources for further research will be provided on the day.

Melissa will be available following the session to answer any questions.

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