Having left Holland after saying goodbye to their homes for good, Dutch migrants were soon to discover their first accommodation in Australia.
Those that traveled assisted by the government as part of the migration agreement were offered accommodation in government run hostels. Others that traveled unassisted had the option of hostels, but also found other living arrangements with family and friends, boarding houses, shared accommodation, tents or wherever else they could find shelter.
The Commonwealth Department of Immigration had the responsibility of providing accommodation and the provision of employment as part the migration agreement. Their method in meeting this responsibility was in developing migrant Hostels.
Three different types of Hostels existed:
Reception and Training CentresDeveloped as a place to interview incoming migrants to determine employment potential, to teach the English language and the Australian way of life.
A place for migrants to live in areas near places of employment before they could afford to find places of their own. These were usually in cities or large regional centres and housed more men than women.
Available for the families of workers when there was not enough room at the Workers Hostel.
Hostels in the Illawarra
The Illawarra had three Commonwealth Hostels which were workers hostels this is a reflection on the fact that many migrants were employed in Wollongong by the Illawarra Steelworks. The hostels included:
- Unanderra opened 1949
- Balgownie (later known as Fairy Meadow)
The hostels were converted army camps, consisting of left over Nissen and Quonset huts which were commonly used as temporary accommodation during World War Two.
|Image 1. Aerial view of Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel Circa 1960's. From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society.|
|Image 2. An exterior view of a Nissen Hut at the Fairy Meadow Hostel Circa 1970''s. From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society.|
|Image 3. Exterior view of a restored Nissen Hut at Campus East (Formerly Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel) J.de Jong, 2010.|
|Image 4. Exterior view of side entrance to restored Nissen Hut at Campus East (formerly Fairy Meadow Hostel) J. de Jong, 2010.|
|Image 5. Exterior side view of restored Nissen Hut at Campus East (formerly Fairy Meadow Hostel) J.de Jong, 2010.|
|Image 6. Exterior view of restored Nissen Huts at Campus East (formerly Fairy Meadow Hostel) J.de Jong, 2010.|
Restoration of the Nissen Huts
The first image shows the extent to which the migrant hostel extended across Fairy Meadow, giving a good indication of the large numbers of migrants arriving in the Illawarra region. It can be seen from the second image that the huts were not very glamorous and provided the barest necessities needed to sustain temporary accommodation. Nevertheless, many migrants that once lived amongst their walls hold fond memories of the hostel, which has led to the restoration of the final remaining Nissen Huts (Image 3, 4, 5, and 6). The Fairy Meadow hostel was enjoyed due to its proximity to the beach.
What about the others?
Many Dutch migrants arrived in Wollongong that weren't part of the assisted migration scheme and usually sort other accommodation from the commonwealth hostels. The location and type of accommodation was related to income, location of friends and family and what was available.
As there was a housing shortage during the 1950's many dutch migrants were forced to find temporary accommodation. Commonly this was in tents, garages, caravans, flats or sheds. Stuart Park, Towradgi, Corrimal and Oak Flats camping grounds were popular with Dutch families in the 1950's. Some Dutch migrants were aware of the building material shortage and brought prefabricated house kits with them from Holland. Once they could afford a block of land they erected the structures themselves.
" The first night in Wollongong, Wim slept on the veranda at Cliff road, and was charged 10 shillings for the privilege. It was obvious that he would have to look elsewhere. He looked around the district and found out that some people were camped at Stuart Park. Good idea! Wim bought a tent and erected it at Stuart Park" (Bill Fikkers, 2010).
" A letter from Willem Meijer advised Hans and Donnie to bring a tent from Holland, as accommodation was practically impossible to obtain." (Bill Fikkers, 2010).
|Once the site where many migrants found temporary accommodation, it is now prohibited to camp at Stuart Park (J. de Jong, 2010)|
"Kees had made some friends and some were Dutch. They lived in East Corrimal where fibro houses were being built- whole streets of them. He would like to buy one ,and thanks to my Bretagne crockery and my sisters generosity, we did!" (Agatha's story, 2002)
|A fibro house in Corrimal typical of migrant houses in the 1950's (J. de Jong, 2010)|
|A prefabricated house in Fairy Meadow, typical of migrant houses in the 1950's (J.de Jong, 2010)|
|Another example of a prefabricated house in Corrimal, typical of the 1950's (J.de Jong, 2010)|