Hostel Huts to Remain
Updated 9 September 2023
The Development Application (DA) for the relocation of the three remaining NSW State Heritage Listed hostel huts at the former Balgownie/Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel has been withdrawn with the huts to remain where they are.
The Heritage Council Approvals Committee determination on 31 January 2023 on the DA to relocate the three hostel huts recommended, “in principle, relocating any heritage building is not acceptable, as context is a critical element of significance and relocating the three Balgownie Migrant Hostel huts to the proposed located is outside the current State Heritage Register curtilage. Relocating the huts would require a new listing to be developed and approved by the Minister for Heritage. Therefore, relocating the huts would require additional material to provide a justification, a mechanism to change the State Heritage Listing and additional interpretation in the proposed new location”.
Consequently the DA to relocate the huts was withdrawn and a revised DA for the St George Illawarra Dragons Community and High Performance Centre was lodged with the Wollongong City Council and is on exhibition until 9 October 2023. The revised DA proposes the construction of a two storey building, two playing fields, car park with associated landscaping, tree removal and public domain works will go ahead but the location of the building and playing fields have been amended to allow the hostel huts to remain where they are.
The revised DA can be viewed on the Wollongong City Council website and this is also where you can lodge an online submission about the proposed development. DA details are DA-2022/1126 St George Illawarra Dragons Community and High Performance Centre, Innovation Campus, 7-9 Squires Way North Wollongong. Site Plans form part of the DA documentation. The image below is from the DA and shows the proposed new site plan.
The hostel huts have been saved (again) by MHP and with the support from community members. The DA for the relocation of the Hostel Huts has been withdrawn.
Follow this link for information to access the DA on exhibition on the How to Access DA on Exhibition
WE SAVED THE HUTS IN 2003 – THEY NEED OUR HELP AGAIN
AND WE NEED YOUR HELP TO PROTECT THEM
The University of Wollongong had lodged a development application to relocate the only remaining NSW State Heritage listed migrant hostel huts to another part of the Innovation Campus to allow the St George Illawarra Dragons NRL club to construct two rugby league fields, and a two-storey building and carpark for a Centre of Excellence for Rugby League.
The proposed relocation site for all three huts would have place them sandwiched behind the new two-storey building, car parks and the UOW student accommodation and administration buildings.
There were two DAs lodged. DA-2022/1124 was to relocate the huts, while DA-2022/1126 was for the construction of a Community High Performance Centre for the St George Illawarra Dragons players and staff.
The Migration Heritage Project believed the huts should not be moved due to their NSW State Heritage listing which ensures they are protected by the provisions of the NSW Heritage Act 1977. The listing in 2003 outlines the significance of the Migrant Workers’ Hostel huts to the State.
These huts provide rare and ongoing testimony of Australia’s post war migration program which had dramatic impacts to the economic, social, and cultural life of Wollongong and NSW.
Additionally, the Australian Charter for Places of Cultural Significance states that ‘the physical location of a place is part of its cultural significance’. By dismantling and relocating the huts from their location, even by a few 100 metres, Wollongong and NSW will lose, the last remaining physical evidence of Migrant Workers Hostels in their original location.
If the three remaining huts, one Nissen and two Quonsets, at the former Balgownie (Fairy Meadow) Migrant Hostel site at Fairy Meadow were moved, their meaning would be negatively impacted because they have, since 1951, developed an association with this locality that is open and away from other structures that are not in keeping with their era. The huts are easily recognised by passers-by and visitors when left in this open and unimpeded area. An area free from other structures and objects that allows people to imagine what a migrant hostel camp must have been like when the area was not heavily populated or built on. This is the only remaining site and huts left in the Illawarra of a migrant hostel and the connection to the Illawarra community is immense. There is no other evidence from any of the other migrant hostel sites across the region still intact.
The video below shows the current location and the impacts of the proposed relocation and initial construction plans would have had if the proposal to relocate the huts had not been withdrawn.
In August 2009 the 3 remaining huts: a Nissen hut and the Quonset Huts located at the former Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel in Fairy Meadow were officially added to the NSW State Heritage Register
See below for link to Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel State Heritage Register Listing
In 2003, the remaining Nissen and Quonset Huts at the former Balgownie (Fairy Meadow) Migrant Hostel were under threat of being demolished.
A public meeting was convened by the Migration Heritage Project with the University of Wollongong representatives to exchange views on how a large part of the history of Wollongong would be lost forever if the huts were to be demolished or even moved from their original site. This meeting, together with lobbying from heritage consultants, played a role in broadening the understanding of the value of saving the former Hostel Huts.
Three huts, 1 Nissen Hut and 2 Quonset huts, were saved and the University of Wollongong developed a plan and collocated the Nissen Hut and the smaller Quonset Hut to beside the former Kitchen/Dining Hall Quonset Hut which was not moved. An interpretation plan for the site was also part of the collocation of the huts. The 3 huts remained on site and are used by the University.