Elder Park

Right in the centre of the city, Elder Park was often a first stopping point for new migrants on the move. Some residents were shocked by the old buildings and basic facilities, while others enjoyed the proximity to the river, shops and cinemas.

Location: Elder Park, at the site that is now the Adelaide Festival Centre

Years operated: November 1947 – December 1969

Administered by: State Government

Place: In 1947 the buildings formerly known as the SPF Hostel (Schools Patriotic Fund Hostel) were converted into a migrant hostel. It was officially renamed the Immigration and Reception Depot, Elder Park in August 1948. Rooms varied in size from single cubicles to fourteen-bed dormitories. Residents could hear their neighbours through flimsy partitions. There were communal bathrooms, a dining room where residents collected their meals and ate six to a table, and a communal laundry with two ironing rooms. Some former residents have happy memories of spending time in the evenings with other new arrivals in the lounge and writing room. The rent at Elder Park varied, and was adjusted to take into account changes in cost of living.


We came into the hostel, the bedroom where we were it wasn’t five star but it was good, it was clean … And we didn’t have to cook, it was given to us, served. They had a beautiful lounge full of chairs, settees, big TV, and a nice veranda outside, where you could sit in the sun.

Robert Gillespie, Elder Park 1959, interviewed 2011


People: Elder Park was set up for British migrants, though it is possible Displaced Persons were placed there under ‘special circumstances’ at some point. After 1951 it was also used by migrant railway employees and their families, along with dependents of army personnel recruited in the UK. The hostel was capable of housing between 160 and 180 people.

Elder Park hostel was overwhelmingly for short-term stay in transit to other hostels or pre-arranged independent accommodation. There are reports of people staying for several weeks, but the vast majority of people stayed only a few nights, sometimes only one. Many of the British migrants using Elder Park had opted into house purchasing schemes prior to arrival.


The following is a starting point for material related to the Elder Park hostel. Much of the information that appears on this webpage is based on archival research undertaken by Dr Karen Agutter and from interviews with Elder Park hostel residents. The oral history interviews will be available at the State Library of South Australia once the Hostel Stories project is completed.

The Advertiser, 3 June 1947 , '1,198 migrants for SA approved'

The Advertiser, 16 July 1948, 'At Migrants' Hostel'

The Advertiser, May 1948, '326 British Migrants for SA'

The Advertiser, 20 Jan 1949, 'All-Migrant Ship Arrives'

The Advertiser,  11 June 1949, 'Skilled UK Migrants'

The Advertiser, 10 December 1949, 'Official says few U.K. migrants return from S.A.'.

The Advertiser, 28 Dec 1949, 'Migrants Have Best Christmas For Years'

The Advertiser, Adelaide, 7 September 1954, 'Clive, 9, is still 'in the wars''.

The Advertiser, 19 September 1965, 'Salesmen Call at Hostels'

National Archives of Australia, D400; SA1964/105222, Migrant Accommodation State Reception Depots Elder Park, Adelaide.

National Archives of AustraliaB5661, 1948/669, Butter ration to British migrants temporarily accommodated, Elder Park, SA.

State Records of South Australia: GRG7, 128, Capacity of State Migration Hostels.


We were a Dutch family arriving in July 1951 and spent about 4 weeks at this hostel.

In 1969 my family emigrated to Australia from the UK. I was 4.5yrs old and my sister was 3. We were lodged at Elder Park for a few weeks. Not a great experience. We were left with other parents while ours searched for a house. They were supposed to look after us but didn't and left us to sort ourselves out. I removed looking through the fence and seeing soldiers walking by. This was when the Vietnam war was on. We felt very alone and scared. We eventualy moved to Seaview Downs where we lived for 5 years. What a fantastic country. 45 years later I returned. Very emotional so many memories. I treasure them.

Corinne Ball's picture

thankyou Willy, and Sean, for your memories. From all we've learned, life in the hostels was very different to what we would consider acceptable these days!

My family, that was Mum & Dad, myself, 3 brothers and a sister arrived during the night, January 1964 disembarking from the Fairsky. Although I don't remember too much about the hostel stayover, I can remember waking up to bright sunshine and the sound of kookaburras. I had a single room to myself due to my age and sex, so quite happy!  Eventually we left for Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Vale and finally back to the UK in 1966. I did return 30 years later, in 1996 only to find, not just my school, Elizabeth Boy's Technical High School demolished, also Elder Park Hostel! 

Here are a couple of Facebook Groups that may be of interest. 

Ten Pound Poms:    https://www.facebook.com/groups/10426022700/

Elizabeth Boys Technical High School:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1169670666411429/

Corinne Ball's picture

Thankyou for those recollections, Mixhael, and for the FB group info, very useful :-)

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