In the presence of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Australia, H.E. Mrs Marion Derckx, at an event hosted in May 2022 by the Pooh Corner Environment Centre and Dutchlink Brisbane a plan was launched to preserve the last remaining heritage items of Camp Columbia (which are situated in the Pooh’s Corner Bushland Reserve). This precinct is of international importance and its history has largely been lost. At the meeting it was suggested to investigate an international collaborative project to save the last remnants of the Camp and tell the very important story of the Camp through the creation of a heritage and cultural site within the Reserve.
The Dutch Government had provided a grant to the University of Queensland for archaeological research at the previous Camp Columbia. At the meeting findings of this project were presented to the Ambassador and representative of Brisbane City Council, Queensland History, Heritage, Military and Environmental Organisations and members of the Dutch Community.
In January 2023 the Camp Columbia Heritage Association Inc (CCHA) was established.
Camp Columbia at Wacol, Brisbane was General MacArthur’s staging camp for the liberation of The South West Pacific and SE Asia. It is here that the Sixth United States Army was born and also Brisbane is the birthplace of the United States Seventh Fleet.
Already since the 1840 parts of the area were used of the Queensland Defence Force and the use of parts of the Camp, by its successor the Australian Defence Force, only finished a decade or so ago.
When the Americans left Camp Columbia the site was taken over by the Dutch who established the Netherlands East Indies Government-in-Exile, the only time ever that Australia hosted a government-in-exile. From here the Dutch staged the liberation of Netherlands East Indies (NEI). Most of the close to 20,000 Dutch and Indonesian people that had fled to Australia worked in or for Camp Columbia and many of the Indonesians played a key role in war of independence of their own country.
Archerfield Airport at the edge of Camp Columbia was its main airport for Camp Columbia during the war and the last Dutch (transport) squadron only left there in 1947.
After the war Dutch prisoners from the Japanese concentration camps in NEI were flown to Camp Columbia for recuperation. Soon after this the site and many of its buildings became part of Queensland’s largest Migrant Centre known as Wacol. The site of the previous headquarters is now occupied by the Brisbane Correctional Centre and as such not accessible to the public. However, we did find remnants of the Camp on the other side of Wacol Station Road however at Pooh Corver Environmental Reserve are accessibel and it is here that we are planning to establish the Heritage Park.
Plan to create a Heritage Park at Pooh Corner Environmental Reserve
Dutchlink Brisbane – with the support of the Pooh Corner Environment Centre – plans to form a stakeholders committee to prepare a cultural and heritage interpretation plan for the site. We have been invited to present the plan to the Dutch Government for a grant under their International Heritage Co-operations for 2023. Brisbane City Council has provided its in principle support. They also suggested we prepare a submission for a heritage listing for the site. As the project is of national and international importance, we are looking at further support from Brisbane City Council, State Government of Queensland, Australian Defense Force and the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Indonesia.
We will also include the history of the Wacol Migrant Centre in the project.
On behalf of the team of the Camp Columbia Heritage Park Project: Professor Ian Lilly University of Queensland, Historian Jorien van Beukering, Ed Parker (Pooh Corner Environmental Centre) and Bart Lommerse (Dutch Community),
The project is supported by the Dutch Government, Brisbane City Council, Pooh Corner Environmental Centre, various Queensland Heritage Organisations and the Dutch Community in Queensland.
Pictures of the Camp Columbia Event 19 May 2022 by Vaughan Kippers