Large numbers of migrant hostels were set up to house the sudden vast influx of displaced persons and assisted migrants who entered Australia after WW2. Two of the largest of these hostels were at Bonegilla and at Bathurst, interestingly now internationally famous for the Mount Panorama racing circuit. The accommodation was predominantly in Nissen huts on disused air force and army bases, and in vacant government buildings that had been hurriedly converted. Facilities were quite basic and therefore, to many, a cause of dissatisfaction. These makeshift arrangements were later gradually replaced by purpose built housing but not before many thousands of bewildered, uprooted people had experienced their first taste of Australia in them.

Maribyrnong Hostel, Victoria

Maribyrnong Hostel, Victoria

It was probably a miracle of its ingenuity and pioneering spirit that the country managed to provide shelter for so many incomers. Though, of course, if you had just left your homeland and travelled halfway round the world it was doubtless hard to appreciate this miracle as you struggled to acclimatise to a new life and in many cases a language you didn’t understand, from the undistinguished vantage point of a collection of hastily and rudimentarily equipped Nissen huts.

Migrants and their dependants were allowed to stay in the hostels for up to a year and were given training and language lessons to help them settle into their new country and find employment and their own places to live. Though many migrants now have fond memories of the time they spent and the friends they made in their hostel, dislike of the hostel provided many others with a good incentive to get out and get on.

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