Wollongong Migrant Heritage Places Study First Accommodation for Post-WW2 Migrants in the Illawarra

A thematic study into places post-WW2 migrants first lived when they came to the Illawarra such as tents, caravans, boarding houses, shared housing, half houses, garages and hostels.  An initiative of the Migration Heritage Project, the thematic study, also known as ‘The Places Project’ was made possible through funding from the Department of Planning NSW Heritage Office, the Migration Heritage Centre of NSW and Wollongong City Council.

Commonwealth Hostel Schemes

In 1948 the Department of Immigration established the Migrant Workers Accommodation Division to administer a network of migrant hostels that provided accommodation for up to 12 months if needed.

Commonwealth Migrant Hostels: Nissen and Quonset Huts

Prefabricated huts used by allied forces during World War 2 were surplus after the war had finished.  The Commonwealth Government purchased a number of these huts, Nissen, Quonset, SAAR and Romney, for use not only at migrant hostels, but at other facilities.  The huts provided a solution in the provision of accommodation and facilities for assisted migrants during a time of acute shortages in building materials and labour.

History of Land Acquired for Migrant Hostels

The traditional owners were dispossessed of land never ceded with the first five land grants in what was then known as Five Islands. Later the land was divided into lots and sold to new owners. To build a migrant hostel the Commonwealth Government needed to acquire the land under the Lands Acquisition Act of the day.

Migrant Hostels in the Illawarra

Three Commonwealth Government Migrant Hostels were constructed in the Illawarra firstly to accommodate unaccompanied male Displaced Persons and then to accommodate migrants and their families who came to the area as part of the assisted migration schemes.  Company hostels were also constructed in the Illawarra to accommodate migrant employees brought to the Illawarra to be employed by firms in the steel, iron, coal and other manufacturing industries.