Migrants’ first glimpses of their new country from harbours and airports were usually followed by a long train or bus journey. Arrival at the hostels often left a strong first impression. Some welcomed a safe place to lay their heads: for others the sight of the hostels was a worrying indication of the life to come. The tin huts and makeshift accommodation that greeted many when they arrived were a shock.
Adelaide appeared a small town to some migrants from large European cities. Others were struck by a new sense of space and light. For most, the hostels provided a base from which they could begin to orientate themselves and explore.
Were the hostels a first home in Australia, or a ‘holding place’ where people waited for real life to begin?