Migrant Hostels Anniversaries


In Celebration of the Many People who Migrated to Australia Post World War 2
Share your Stories and Memories of Coming to Wollongong and Life in the Migrant Hostels

2018 marked the beginning of many anniversaries associated with the construction and opening of migrant workers camps and hostels and the arrival of the first post World War 2 migrants to our region.  To celebrate these significant anniversary years we are asking you to share your stories, or your family's stories.





In Celebration of the Migrant Hostels and Camps 70th Anniversaries

The accommodation provided by the Commonwealth of Australia for migrants after World War 2 were usually called Migrant Hostels or just plain "Hostels".  Each Commonwealth Hostel had a specific role.  In Wollongong, the three Commonwealth Hostels were Unanderra, Berkeley and Balgownie (later to be renamed Fairy Meadow).  The other types of hostels built in Wollongong around the same time were employer hostels, usually to accommodate single men, or unaccompanied men without families.



Prime Minister John Curtin expressed his belief that Australia should commit itself to an immigration programme when the war ended as a solution to Australia's vulnerability and labour shortage post World War 2.  He felt that Australia's isolation had made it vulnerable and said at least 30 million people was essential for Australia's security.  It would also address the labour shortage created by the demands of post-war reconstruction of the economy.

On 13 July 1945, the Department of Immigration was formally established.  It was a nation-building enterprise and its priority was to maintain a focus on Britain as a primary source for migrants.  In 1947 when Australia signed an agreement with the International Refugee Organisation this opened up Australia's doors to countries other then Britain.  By the 1950s immigration schemes opened up to more than 30 European countries representing about two-thirds of the immigration programme.

Australia often competed with other nations to attract applicants.

Arthur Calwell was the first Minister of Immigration from 13 July 1945 to 19 December 1949 and it is his catch cry "Populate or Perish" that is recorded in the annals of history.

  Significant Dates 

1945 Department of Immigration formally established.
1945-1959 Assisted passage schemes focussing on Britain as its primary source of immigrants. Limited immigration for non-British usually through sponsorship by relatives already living in Australia.
1947  Australia Government signs agreement with International Refugee Organisation to settle persons under Displaced Persons Scheme.
1948 Assisted passage offered to Maltese.  Maltese migrants were classified as 'white British subjects' for the purposes of Australia's immigration policy.
Late 1948/1949 Waterboard MWSDB (Balts Camp).  By February 1949 there were 21 Balts living in the camp.
1949 Steelhaven Hostel (AIS).
1949 Unanderra Hostel No 1 operated from 1949 when it accepted the first batch of European persons (refugees) to arrive in Wollongong.  Removed in 1970s.
1950 Unanderra Hostel No 2 was added and removed after 1966.
1951 Italy and the Netherlands enter into assisted migration schemes to Australia.
1951 Berkeley Hostel operated 1951-1956, 1954-1967.  Huts removed 1972.
1951 Balgownie Hostel operated 1951-1982. (re-named Fairy Meadow 1957).
1952  Austria, Belgium, Greece, Spain and West Germany enter into assisted migration schemes to Australia.
1954 Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States enter into assisted migrant schemes to Australia.
1955 Operation Reunion reuniting in Australia families from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, USSR, former Yugoslavia.
1956 Hungarian refugees flee fighting in their country.
1963-66 Immigration restrictions on non-Europeans further relaxed. Over the course of a decade around 300,000 people would migrate from other countries.
1967 Turkey and the former Yugoslavia migration commenced.
1968 Czech refugees flee fighting in their country.
1973 Chile refugees flee to Australia following the overthrow of the elected government.
1975-1985 Refugees from Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) come to Australia after the end of the Vietnam War.
1980-1985 Solidarity movement/Marshall law in Poland allowed permanent entry to Australia for more than 25,000 Poland-born settlers, many arriving as refugees.
From 2000 Australia has taken in people from a broad range of countries including Iraq, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sudan, India and Sri Lanka.


It is estimated that 40,000-80,000 years of indigenous settlement and civilisation had occurred prior to the arrival of the First Fleet.  Migration to Australia from other countries had, and continues to have, a huge impact on our first nations peoples.  The Migration Heritage Project acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the traditional owners and custodians of the land upon which the stories of migration have been documented, recorded or explored.





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