The launch of the Exhibition was a truly extraordinary event. The community had enthusiastically supported the concept right from the start but the launch brought together people who had not seen each other for decades and the excitement was palpable.
Most of the Enterprise residents had arrived by bus from Tullamarine Airport. Before their flight many had come to northern Australia by boat. In recognition of their journey arrangements were made to have a group of people sail from Williamstown to the Docklands in the replica schooner, The Enterprize – the ship that brought the first European settlers to Melbourne. At Docklands the people were transferred by a 1970s bus to the Immigration Museum.
The ship Enterprise leaves from Williamstown
Beginning the Journey on the ship Enterprise (left); Reading the Display Boards (right)
Declaring the Enterprise Exhibition open
Exhibitions at the Museum are usually opened by dignitaries. However this opening was a truly community event. It was opened by people who had lived at Enterprise.
Later stories were exchanged and friendships were renewed. Two couples reminisced about their time at Enterprise – one with a six year old who was ineligible to have an egg for breakfast and the other with a child under six who didn’t like eggs! The younger child lined up for egg each morning and then handed it over to the older child. The Museum at the time was selling china eggs. The couple who had the older child bought one as a way of saying thank you to the other couple for their generosity at that time!
This bringing together of people has continued throughout the life of this community driven project.
Welcome Speech for Official Opening by Merle Mitchell
This exhibition is a great example of what can happen when a group in the community comes together to make a dream come true. Until the last few months there has been little outside support except for the enthusiasm of the community who have responded so positively and sometimes with great passion.
For the last 21 months we have worked as a team and I must say it has been one of the best teams I have ever worked with.
This is a story that had to be told. It’s a story of thousands of people coming here for a new life and often to seek safety.
At Springvale they found a welcoming community which said: ‘You are welcome, form your cultural groups, build your places of worship, maintain your culture. You have an important part to play in the development of this diverse multicultural community. We are glad that you are here.’
So you came at a time when Springvale was growing, we welcomed you, and many of you stayed in the area. You brought your skills, your knowledge and you taught us so much.
You helped shape our service organisations. For example, we ran an interpreter service when there was no Government interpreter service. We piloted the first ethnic teacher’s aide program which is now a Victorian program.
We hope that this small contribution to the history of the Enterprise Hostel will help people discuss their histories with their families and others. Much of the material you will see today will be given to the Springvale community and will be exhibited there, some will form part of the Museum’s permanent collection, and some will be returned to the original owners.
There are many people to thank but I will confine my remarks to three important groups.
Firstly you the story tellers. I know that for many of you telling your story was a very difficult experience and we very much appreciated your willingness to do so. It’s your exhibition. You made it what it is.
Second, Eileen Wright and her photographers. Her experience as a curator of exhibitions has been invaluable. Without you, Eileen, I doubt that we could have done it.
Thirdly, the organising group. When we went to the briefing session in February last year we got carried away with all sorts of exciting ideas and were told ‘will you just concentrate on words.’ Well as you will see we did concentrate on words but we did much more than that. It’s hard to stop an enthusiastic, creative group of people.
And of course there was the important contribution of the Museum staff and the generosity of the Enterprise Trust and Grenda’s buses who have made the launch day so very special.
When we were asked which prominent person we would like to launch the exhibition we said, ’It’s a community project the community will launch it’
And so we have three former residents who will speak for just a minute and a half each about their Enterprise experience and then we will launch exhibition together.
1. Geraldina Alvarez Poblete who came from Chile on an assisted passage which she was required to repay.
2. Be Ha who was one of the ‘boat people'
3. Azita Moradi who arrived as a teenager.
4. Kim Brisbane who spoke on behalf of Salvador Castro, a former resident who was unable to attend but had prepared a series of Enterprise photos which now hang on the walls of Lexington Garden.
ABC Video: Launch of Enterprise Hostel exhibition at Immigration Museum
Film clip courtesy of the ABC. It was played as a part of the ABC news on the day of the opening of the exhibition at the Melbourne Immigration Museum on 23 November, 2008. (To play video click on the arrow button in the middle of the video).