March 2022

Back to Issue 11

Singing Statistics From Rottnest Island (Wadjemup) Internment Camp (1915)

By Natalie Damjanovich-Napoleon

15 months — length of time Rottnest was an internment camp –– 1, 104 enemy aliens interned –– Wadjemup = ‘land across the water’ — 370 deaths of imprisoned Aboriginal men and boys from 1838-1931 — 400, 000 civilians interned worldwide from 1914-1918, forgotten like a collective amnesia — 426 Germans interned — 30 German-Austrians interned — 678 ‘Slav’ Austro-Hungarian subjects interned — rotte nest = ‘rats nest’ — Food: eternal mutton stew, fresh caught fish, a weariness to the stomach — Work: prisoners of war can only be employed on Commonwealth Works — Time: card games, bocce, wood-carving — without any stimulus — my brain is becoming confused 


seashell mosaics

Slavs sing in patterns

ocean chants us home.



Notes: statistics referenced from, Ludewig, Alexandra. War Time on Wadjemup: A Social History of the Rottnest Island Internment Camp. UWA Publishing, 2019.