16 October 2009
A special memorial to the 400 people held in an infamous internment camp on Torrens Island, South Australia, during World War I has been unveiled on the site of AGL Energy‟s Torrens Island Power Station.
The Hon Kevin Foley, Deputy Premier of South Australia and the Member for Port Adelaide, and the Hon Patrick Conlon, Minister for Energy, unveiled the memorial dedicated to the people of German, Polish and Austro-Hungarian descent who were interned in the camp in 1914 as “enemy aliens” following the outbreak of World War I.Torrens Island internment camp was opened on 9 October 1914, just over two months after the declaration of war.
Four descendants of Mr Julius Hermann August Schulz who was in the Camp in 1914 and 1915 were at the commemoration as special guests of AGL.
Mr Schulz‟s great granddaughter, Ms Kerry Anderson, contacted AGL and was able to shed some light on the events of almost a century ago that led to her great grandfather‟s internment at Torrens Island and the conditions in the camp.
“Our great grandfather arrived in Australia in 1891 and married Anna Knoblauch and they had 10 children,” Ms Anderson said.
“Julius was stoned by his workmates at the Sugar Refinery at Glanville after the outbreak of World War 1 and with eight children to feed and no work; he voluntarily surrendered destitute as an “alien” to the Commonwealth Military Forces at Keswick Barracks on 12th. December 1914. He was sent to Torrens Island Internment Camp two days later. At this time he was 48 years of age and he became Prisoner No. 132.
“An allowance was paid to the families, 10 shillings to the wife and 2/6 for each child under 14 years. This was the reason he twice refused parole. On 5 August 1915, after eight months on Torrens Island, he was paroled and had to report twice weekly to the local police.
“During this ordeal, the family were only allowed to visit monthly and his daughter Wilhelmine told how she would scavenge „edible‟ food from the bins behind the green grocer‟s shop and take what she could to her father.
She was only 11 at the time. His three youngest children were only two, four and six. They were told their father had gone away to work.”
The personal account from Ms Anderson also confirms the historical view that the treatment of internees at the camp deteriorated significantly in 1915, after some personnel changes, to the extent that the Defence Department moved to close down the camp later that year. By the end of 1915 many of the internees were transferred to a camp at Holdsworthy in southern Sydney.
According to an account of internment life written by the historian Gerhard Fischer, Torrens Island internment camp "... had by far the worst reputation of all internment camps in the Commonwealth" with primitive living conditions and austere treatment of internees. There were reports of recaptured escapees being flogged.
Ms Anderson confirmed that "Torrens Island was a harsh, brutal environment. Make shift shanties and tents were used to house the internees. They slept on groundsheets with not enough blankets for warmth. In winter the land turned into mud. The ill-treatment and physical abuse under the command of Captain Hawkes forced the closure of Torrens Island as an Internment Camp.
"My great grandfather never spoke of his time at Torrens Island. It was too painful and shameful. He died in 1936. His youngest daughter, Charlotte was in her eighties before she knew what had happened to her father."
AGL Managing Director Michael Fraser said AGL only recently became aware of this chapter in the site‟s history and agreed to sponsor the memorial after being approached by Adelaide historian Michael Wohltmann.
"Mr Wohltmann contacted us to explain the historical significance of the site and his concern that unless the camp was commemorated in some way, the memory of this important part of Australian history would be lost," Mr Fraser said.
"Other than a few old photos in the State archive, there is nothing left to remind us of what took place here and how very different it is today.
"Considering our ownership of Torrens Island Power Station and its importance to AGL and South Australia, AGL believed the appropriate course of action was to provide a lasting reminder on site of an important chapter in Australia‟s history.
"We are absolutely delighted to have the descendants of Julius Schulz join us today and thankful they have given up their time to join us in commemoration of the 95
The Deputy Premier and Member for Port Adelaide, the Hon Kevin Foley, thanked all involved for their efforts to commemorate the history of the site, "It is right that we recognise this chapter in the history of Port Adelaide," he said. "Everyone involved should be commended for ensuring that the camp and those who were interned there are remembered in this way."
Kerry Anderson was joined at the commemoration as special guests of AGL by Kay Powell, Helen Snoad and Margaret Travers who are all great granddaughters of Julius Schulz.
The camp stood on the site of what is now the Torrens Island Power Station but because the power station is a secure site, the plaque will be mounted in a nearby public area for general viewing purposes.
Andrew Scannell, Head of Media Direct: +61 3 8633 6167 Mobile: +61 (0) 407 290 658 e-mail: email@example.com
AGL is AGL is Australia‟s largest integrated renewable energy company and is taking action toward creating a sustainable energy future for our investors, communities and customers. Drawing on over 170 years of experience, AGL operates retail and merchant energy businesses, power generation assets and an upstream gas portfolio. AGL has Australia's largest retail energy and dual fuel customer base. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, landfill gas and biomass. AGL is Australia's largest private owner and operator of renewable energy assets and is looking to further expand this position by exploring a suite of low emission and renewable energy generation development opportunities.
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