The history of place connected to country in which the establishment of Commonwealth Hostels, employer-built hostels and industries in the Illawarra, starts with the traditional custodians from the First Nations people of Dharawal Country.
The migrants who were placed into the hostels and worked in the industries in the Illawarra region post World War 2 would have been witness to a less built-up landscape compared to today. Many of them when they arrived at their Hostel, starting from 1949, saw an expanse of open spaces in which their temporary homes would be located. They too became part of the shared history of the land, largely undocumented, but an integral and continuing part of Illawarra’s heritage.
But what is this history that the migrants became a part of, who and what were there before? Who were the people that were given the first land grants in an area that was once known as Five Islands dispossessing the First Nation custodians of their traditional land? A land never ceded. How did the white settler grantees and purchasers of the land that Balgownie (Fairy Meadow) hostel was built come to be in possession of the that land? Who inherited or purchased these lands? Who did the Commonwealth Government acquire the land from upon which they would construct their migrant workers’ hostels?
This section of the Illawarra Migrant History Research Project focusses on those lands. It is meant to provide a brief overview of the history of early Illawarra up until the acquisition of land for migrant hostels to assist further research and understanding of this part of the region’s history.
More comprehensive accounts of the Illawarra’s early history are available from the local historical societies such as the Illawarra Historical Society, the Helensburgh & District Historical Society as well as the Wollongong Local Studies Library and the University of Wollongong.
You can then learn what happened to the land used for migrant hostels in the Illawarra after they were no longer used for migrant hostel accommodation on this website in Migrant Hostels in the Illawarra.