In late 1945, Casino residents were drawn into the events surrounding the struggle for Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch. After the Japanese invasion of Indonesia in 1942, the Dutch fled to Australia taking with them Indonesian soldiers, sailors, government officials and more.
The Dutch Government made a deal with the Australian Government which gave the Dutch extra-terrestrial rights over many Indonesian refugees, declaring several former army camps as Dutch territory.
A camp located in Casino was named Camp Victory by the Dutch as initially, the Dutch expected to return after victory over the Japanese.
From December 1942, a few hundred Indonesian soldiers arrived in Casino as part of the Dutch Armed Forces Technical Battalion. These soldiers were paid, had permission to leave camp at the end of the day and were given other various privileges. This was different to the first lot of prisoners who were treated otherwise.
The first lot of prisoners detained at Camp Victory in 1942-1943 were merchant seamen, then followed by Netherlands East Indies political prisoners that came from Taneh Merah prison camp held in New Guinea. The third lot of prisoners included both soldiers and civilians that were either recruited into the Technical Battalion and trained in a variety of trades or were employed as guards.
After the war’s end, many prisoners became agitated at delays in deporting them and having their wages delayed. The Dutch responded to this declaration by surrounding the camp with barbed wire fences, twenty-four-hour flood lighting and guards armed with tommy guns.
Finally, near the very end of 1946, the camp was disbanded. The prisoners were taken by train to Brisbane and then loaded on boats. There is still debate today over whether the captivity of the prisoners was legal.
Further information on Camp Victory can be found at the Casino Historical Museum and Northern Rivers Military Museum.