In March 1950, the Minister for Immigration, Harold Holt, announced that the Commonwealth Government would build hostels for 7,500 British migrants in NSW one of which would be in the Port Kembla area and would accommodate 2,000 British migrants. These proposed hostel units were referred to as Port Kembla Migrant Workers Hostels Units, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 and they were to be constructed at Berkeley. This was in addition to existing Port Kembla Migrant Workers Hostel Units 1 and 2 which was later called Unanderra Migrant Workers Hostel Units 1 and 2.
It was proposed that about 100 acres would need to be acquired to be able to construct a 5 unit hostel at Berkeley and the Commonwealth Government commenced negotiations with three of the incumbent property owners of Lots 8, 9, and 10 of the Berkeley Estate being a total of 133¼ acres then valued at £15,925.
As the departmental officer from the Commonwealth Government’s Department of the Interior set about arranging the negotiations to purchase the land, the Housing Commission of NSW informed the Department of Immigration that the land was also required for the State’s housing development program.
The Council of the Greater City of Wollongong was against having migrant hostels concentrated in one area and on Monday, 29 May 1950, the Mayor of Wollongong, Alderman Dawson, gave a tour of an alternative site for a family hostel for British migrants. The alternative site was land at Fairy Meadow, the Collaery Estate, in the process of being purchased by Wollongong Council.
The Department of Immigration and Housing Commission of NSW, equally aware of each other’s need to build temporary accommodation for migrants and permanent housing for the people in the Illawarra, as well as migrants, agreed that the Housing Commission of NSW would resume all the land it needed for the housing development at Berkeley and then the Commonwealth Government would the acquire the land from the NSW Government on the proviso the NSW Government would have first offer once the land was no longer needed for the migrant hostels.
An altered plan for Commonwealth hostels for British migrants was then conceived being two hostel units at Berkeley and a 3 hostel unit at Fairy Meadow that would be known as Balgownie Migrant Hostel, later changed to Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel.
A total of 19 acres 3 roods 12½ perches, part of Lot 8 of the Berkeley Estate and fronted Flagstaff Road was acquired from the Housing Commission of NSW by the Commonwealth Government to construct Berkeley Migrant Hostel Unit 1 and a total of 12 acres 1 rood and 39 perches part of Lot 9 of the Berkeley Estate and fronted Canterbury Road was acquired from the Housing Commission of NSW by the Commonwealth Government to construct Berkeley Migrant Hostel Unit 2. A further 36¼ perches was acquired directly from the owner of Lot 8 by the Commonwealth Government. This small piece of land was at the northern end of Lot 8 and had not been resumed by the Housing Commission of NSW but was needed as part of the Berkeley Hostel Unit 1 site layout.
Berkeley Migrant Hostel commenced operations in December 1951 and although built for British migrants and their families, other nationalities would also be accommodated there after assisted migration agreements for people of non-British backgrounds commenced.
There are no visible remains evident of the Berkeley Migrant Hostel today and with the layout of the Housing Commission homes and new roads, changes to Flagstaff and Canterbury Roads had occurred. The location of the former Berkeley Migrant Hostel today would be for Unit 1 (formerly Flagstaff Road) on Nannawilli Street with Wylandra Place, Tarra Place and Oliver Place located within the boundary of the area acquired for Unit 1. The location of Unit 2 today is also on Nannawilli Street (formerly Canterbury Road) with Boronga Crescent running through the centre of the land acquired for Unit 2. Halyard Street runs between what would have been the location of Units 1 and 2 of the former Berkeley Migrant Hostel.
More to come….