In 1967 Glenelg was awarded Commonwealth Government ‘Hostel of the Year’. This was a far cry from 1951, when an inspection revealed unsatisfactory conditions including a dirty kitchen and bathrooms, broken glass throughout the site and an area that gave ‘the impression of abandon'.

Location: Between Warren Avenue and Tapleys Hill Road

Years operated: 1949 – 1971

Administered by: Commonwealth Government 

Place:  Officially referred to as Glenelg North, the hostel off Warren Avenue had the advantage of being close to existing suburbs and shops. Residents were able to access public transport and visit the beach or the local cinema. Children from the hostel attended the St Leonards Primary School. 

Buildings from the old Royal Australian Air Force station at Port Pirie were recycled to establish the hostel, and the site was in operation from late 1949. In early 1950 the manager was still sleeping in a partitioned area off the dining room and staff were housed in dormitories while they waited for quarters to be built.

By March 1950 a second stage of building was approved, and some existing structures were altered to bring them into line with newly-established standards for Commonwealth hostels around Australia. Nissen huts were still being built well into 1951 when The Advertiser reported on progress, recording that migrants would move into new buildings ‘almost as soon as the paint is dry’. The completed hostel was to have the capacity to house 800 people, though numbers may never have reached that level.

In March 1953 Dutch migrants protested against conditions at the hostel, and later the same year police were called to the hostel when ‘European’ migrants threatened to pull down the recreation room after they were refused permission to hold a meeting there protesting against hostel rent levels. Glenelg hostel residents received the support of the Federal British Migrants Welfare Association, and the British Migrants Association, as rent strikes continued across Australian hostels.

Improvements continued throughout the 1950s, and Glenelg was eventually compared favourably to other migrant hostels by many residents. By the mid 1960s there had been a number of upgrades to buildings and infrastructure, and gardens had been planted. Glenelg had also a shop on site, which became a gathering place for a number of the single men.

In 1971 any residents who were not able to find private accommodation were transferred to Pennington hostel. Today one last Nissen hut remains on the site.

If it was nice weather, especially in the summer, we’d go down to Glenelg North, to the beach. Mum was working, so then there would be other young girls in the hostel, who we used to meet, and there was a communal place, where we used to play. They used to have dances or play table tennis; I played table tennis every night. There would be movies, the old black and white, real old movies, open air. It was nice. And then we used to get together and just sit there and sing our German pop songs.

Barbara Reis, Glenelg hostel 1955, interviewed 2013

People: The first residents at the Glenelg hostel were predominantly Displaced Persons from Europe, with a number of people moved to Glenelg after Finsbury was designated a British migrant hostel. Those housed at Glenelg expanded to include people from a range of European countries, including British migrants.

Families were living at Glenelg by 1953. Children attending St Leonard’s Primary School were a new challenge for teachers, who made special efforts to work with children learning English for the first time. A small number of children also attended St Mary’s Catholic School.

The Good Neighbour Council formed a Glenelg branch in 1950, and organised English lessons, socials, film evenings, concerts and special events for hostel residents. Christmas celebrations included presents from Father Christmas for children at the hostel.

A youth club formed at the hostel and organisations including the YWCA were active on site. Religious services were conducted by a number of different churches.

Throughout its lifetime it appears that the main appeal of the Glenelg hostel was that it was less isolated than many of the other migrant hostels, and this meant that residents had an earlier introduction to the wider community and could be more independent in exploring their new surroundings. People remember the social life of the hostel fondly, and there are several stories of lifelong friendships formed in the hostel.

The following is a starting point for material related to the Glenelg hostel. Much of the information that appears on this webpage is based on archival research undertaken by Dr Karen Agutter and from interviews with Glenelg hostel residents. The oral history interviews will be available at the State Library of South Australia once the Hostel Stories project is completed.The Mail, 19 August 1950, 'Manus huts at bay'The Mail, 13 January 1951, 'Nissen hut frames make attractive pattern'The Advertiser, 4 December 1953, 'Polish boy loved party'The Advertiser, 18 May 1953, 'Police called to Glenelg migrant hostel'The West Australian, 28 May 1953, 'Migrants at hostels get ultimatum'The Advertiser, 15 December 1954, 'Christmas parties for new Australians'


I remember us visiting someone at the Glenelg Hostel when I was very young. The Nissen hut was furnished very barely. There was a single iron bed with a candlewick bedpread, and maybe only a chair or a simple cabinet beside the bed. I remember it striking me as severe, and it was hot too.
Hi Angela, that sounds very much like the recreation Nissen hut room we have on display in the exhibition. Our furniture and bed linen came from the Pennington hostel in 1985, but I think all the Commonwealth hostels basically had the same style of furniture and fittings.
I was all of 6 years of age but I still have clear memories of my family in the little hut at Glenelg. It was certainly not very flash and boy it was hot in January when we arrived. I know the tap water was not drinking water. I of course didn't listen or was desperate for a drink in the middle of our first night. I had the worst belly ache soon after and decided I needed to find a toilet. Of course there were no toilets in the huts so I went out and started to look. I got lost quickly .. The huts all looked the same. Thank God for the lovely English lady that found me wandering around crying. 
What a sad story Andrea! I'm glad to hear it had a happy ending. Thanks for sharing your memories.

We arrived in Glenelg on the 3rd of march 1971, the place was clean and very liveable, and we only stayed for 10 days.There was never a proplem.

I remember living in the Nissan huts in 1960 at Glenelg. I have some very fond memories of those times. We also live at the Woodside Camp when we first arrived in South Australia.
I arrived at Glenelg Hostel as a 16yr old.  The huts were basic, hot and probably left a lot to be desired, but we never complained.  There was a great social life on the hostel and we kids soon made lots of fiends with other kids on the hostel as did our parents who attended the monthly dances in the hall. It was a bit like a holiday camp with the beach only a walk away and an excellent transition period with the opportunity to mingle with people in the same situation.  We stayed on the hostel for 18mths, some up to the maximum period of 2yrs as it gave our parents time to save up a deposit towards a house.  Lots of new arrivals were offered work at Phillips at Hendon and a special bus used to come and pick them up.  I still have three very good friends from those days, throughout the years, we have kept in touch.  We all have such fond memories of hostel life!
Corinne Ball's picture
Thankyou for sharing your recollections, Susan, I'm glad to hear you made life long friends! Lots of people commented on the beachside location of the hostel, especially those who had never been to the beach before, it must have been a welcome change for many.
We arrived with our parents after a three day flight on British Eagle Airlines at 12:30am October 19th 1965. There are a few things  will never forget. The sight of the Adelaide lights from the plane as we flew in. As soon as we landed I was hit by the smell of dry grass that was so alien to me at the time then later, the smell of the dark brown vinyl floors in the Nissan hut - Section 1 - M12  that was to become our home for the next 18 months before moving to the Adelaide Hills. Life in the hostel was a struggle but as kids we adapted despite the hardships of which there were many. Australia was a far cry from the lush green semi rural home we had moved from. At the time I hated everything about it..... the mosquitoes, the heat, the food served at the dinner hall, in particular the sandwiches......every night you would have to tick the boxes printed on brown paper bags as to what filling you wanted in your sandwiches the next day.....Baked Beans, Lemon Spread, Vegemite, or Peanut Paste. Every day on our walk to St leonards primary school the streets would be littered with school lunches as we traded our hunger for the low hanging peaches and nectarines that featured prominently in surburban gardens back then.
Corinne Ball's picture
What clear memories you have - baked bean sandwiches, sounds awful!  Many many of our respondents have memories about the food, it made a big impression, sometimes good, often not so great.
I was in the Hostel from November 1971 to March 1972. I had many fond memories.
Thanks for sharing David, you might be interested in an event coming up soon with the University of Adelaide:
We were in the Glenelg Hostel from  mid April 1967 and stayed there until 27th June.  We were a family of 7 (Mum, Dad and 5 kids)  We had come over on the Fairstar, coming through the Suez Canal at the height of the Suez Crisis.  My older sisters and brother and I all attended St Leonards's Primary School and I remember walking to the mess to collect our lunch bags in the morning.  I remember the group walks to school too they were fun - As a 5 year old I don't remember much about the school  :)  My father had a stroke while we were there and spent 2 weeks i the RAH.  Can you imagine what that would have been like for a mum with 5 little ones?  I have only vague memories of the hostel, like the amazing smell of the hot water in the bathrooms, the great slippery dip that always had trails of ants on it, the arched gateway, and Mum spending hours in the laundry.  My father recovered, found a job in Mt Gambier, purchased a station wagon, loaded it up with all our belongings and headed off on the 6 hour trip.  We were met by his new employer and members of the local Good Neighbour Council.  Dad eventually became President of the GNC and we have fond life long friendships with some of the new migrant families we helped.  We grew up in the South East of SA and most of us (including child #6 - the only Aussie) have produced children and grandchildren, although now they are spread to the 4 corners of the continent. 
Corinne Ball's picture
Thankyou very much for sharing your story, Rebecca, I love the details of the memories you have.  Sounds like it was a stressful time for your parents, but that things turned out very well.  We'd love to see any photos you have that relate to your time there, or of your dad as President of the GNC.Regards,Corinne
We came to Glenelg, after 10 days in Bonegilla. We left Bonegilla, 31.08.2014, so I guess we came to Glenelg the next day.We were a family of 5. My parents, Per and Rannveig, my twi sisters, Wenche and Anne. I remember clearly the airport and all the planes that we could follow. After a short stay, we continued on to pert by train. I can't recall for how long we stayd in Glenelg, but it wasn't long.I have just come home to Norway, after a vacation in Perth, Sydney and Bonegilla. It was great to come back and see some of the places we lived. Unfortunately, Adelaide was not on the list, this time.Terje Melgard
Thanks for sharing your memories Terje. Hope you had a wonderful trip. If you are interested there are more photos of the migrant hostels on our Flickr site
Mother, father and five kids arrived at Glenelg Migrant Hostel in Sept 1966 after a five day flight on a British Eagle Brittannia. (Suez Canal was closed to ships). Being from a small farm in Yorkshire, us kids found the Hostel Wonderful!!!!! We had lots of other kids to play with.  We just had a short walk to the beach and could stay there all day.  And..... we had flushing toilets and hot running water.... even though it was in a separate hut. The first smells I remember..... drops of rain on the bitumen..... the smell of fresh oranges on the trees.... unbelievable that you could just pick an orange off a tree in the front garden. The best christmas present ever.... a neighbour gave each of us kids a brown bag of plum red cherries !
Such vivid memories Kathleen! Thanks for taking the time to share them with us. 

Hello Kathleen, I was interested in your remarks about your british Eagle flight to Australia. I run their archives and wonderd if you have any stories about the flight that we could add to our Eagle archives. Was there a particular reason for the five days?

All the best  Eric

How can I get to read these Eric?

Corinne Ball's picture

Hi Frank, I searched 'Eric Tarrant' with 'Eagle archives' and found the contact details (I can't tag them into this post).


My grandparents Bob and Betty Clarke lobbed at Glenelg hostel in March 1967 with 5 lads Stephen (my dad) Paul, David ,Alan and Mark. Anyone remember this family from Stafford UK?

Hope you track some other residents down Gary. You may also be interested in our photo sharing group on Flickr, which features some Glenelg photos: (search for those tagged Glenelg hostel)

It was nothing more then hell on earth, CATHERINE!!!

I'm sorry you had that experience Gaz.

I attended St Leonard's primary school from 1947 until 1954. During this time I remember that we had many children from the migrant hostel. The school had a soccer team that played in a schools competition on Saturday mornings. The team was made up of mainly migrants and partly because of this got into the state finals. I was the only Australian in the team with included from memory at least 2 Germans several Dutch and English players and our best player was Polish. The German players became good friends but unfortunately like a lot of the migrants moved on fairly quickly.

Corinne Ball's picture

Those are great memories Ian, thaknyou for sharing them.

we, mum, dad , sister, brother arrived in1964, i remember the sugar sadwiches for school lunches, and seeing the Beatles in a motorcade on Tapleys Hill Rd,, Tony Templeman

Corinne Ball's picture

Thankyou for sharing those memories, Tony, how exciting to see the Beatles!

I remember it well. Arrived via British Eagle Nov 10th 1966. Stayed there for about 3 months as Dad couldn't find a job. 5 kids made it tough on our parents but we survived OK. Bit hot come Christmas. Made lots of good friends there. Still keep in touch (infrequently) with one. I remember katheleen Dawson above comments very well. Also met my wonderful wife at the youth club there. Been together ever since. Got 3 great Aussie kids now and 2 fabulous grandchildren

Hello Brian,   I was interested in your remark about traveling by British Eagle. I am their archivist and wondered if you have any interesting stories about the flight that we could include in our archive.

all the best  Eric

Hi Eric, I have some memories of the flight. One was we were sat near the emrgency exit and another family were sat right at the exit. One of the kids in the other family who was only a toddler kept pulling on the emergency exit handle. My Mother was not comfortable with flying anyway but with this kid swingong on the emergency exit handle she was rather anxious to say the least. Another was one stop over we had was Colombo. We all bought souvenirs there such as wooden ashtrays only to get them confiscated when we got to Aussie. I think the aircraft we flew on was  a Brittania (twin turbo prop?). From memory, we also stopped over in Kuwait. Brian

Corinne Ball's picture

That's a great story!

We (Mum, Dad, sister and I) arrived at Glenelg Hostel in 1964 and left (for England) in 1966. I was 10 years old when we arrived. Great place for me; fishing in the creek, walking to the beach, making camps up near the golf course.

It's amazing what you get used to ... it was right next to the Airport and the planes used to take-off and land right opposite our hut (it used to make the TV go fuzzy), but after a while we didn't even notice it.

In the the summer you could fry an egg on the corrugated iron walls. We had three rooms. Mum and Dad's room doubled-up as the living room, as they had a sofa bed (imagine have to make that upi every night for two years!!)

I went to St Leonards. Can't remember much about it now other than marching to a band in the playgound and having to draw lots of maps of Australia, in an attempt to learn the states and their captital cities.

Fond memories. My Mother still keeps in touch with one family.

Tried to see where it used to be on Google Maps, but failed

Corinne Ball's picture

Hi Peter, 

do you recall what the sofa bed looked like?  We've got one in our collection from Pennington hostel, which was green leatherette.  Certainly seems an uncomfrtable way to spend 2 years!


Hi Peter, The hostel grounds are still there,138.5188903,340m/data=!3m1!1e3

If you use the satellite photo you'll see the roadways are still in place but most of the buildings were demolished many years ago. The grounds are used by a Showjumping club now and have been for a long time. A few odd buildings are still there which the people use as part of their club activities I think. Hope the link works for you. If not try looking on Google maps for Warren Avenue Glenelg North. The hostel grounds are between Warren Ave and Brownhill Creek. The creek is all concrete now and is reallt nothing more than a stormwater drain


Corinne Ball's picture

That's great info, thankyou Brian, very useful!

I am writing a book.... And have been meaning to go back to the Glenelg Hostle for some time.  I could see that before long there would be no evidence of the camp left. my book starts at the glenelg Hostel and my last chapter ends there so it was only fitting i revisit it.  So many memories came flooding back.  The couple that run the Equestrian canteen were kind enough to let me go inside the last remaining hut it was erie as i felt it the exact location to the huts we lived in.  

I enjoyed reading the comments on this page.

That's fantastic Paula, I've seen it from the outside but not managed to get inside. 

Hi Paula, I think we came to Australia on the same aeroplene in 1966. I seem to remember you had a brother Michael and sister Eileen. Is that correct? Brian

We stayed at Glenelg Migrant Hostel for about 6 weeks, after arriving in Adelaide June 1966 - Came over on the Fairstar - I went to St Leonard's Primary then transferred to Brighton Primary - I seem to recall one night per week bulk Fish and Chips were delivered to the Hostel - does anyone have that memory? - cheers Andrew   

Corinne Ball's picture

I haven't heard of it, but maybe one of our readers can recall?!?! Sounds yummy!

We arrived in SA 2 May 1957 and spent 6 miserable months in the dreadful Woodside Immigration camp then went to Glenelg hostel. Dreadful food! There was fish and chips on Fridays that all us kids loved (I was 10, my sister 6) then they said the f&c would be cancelled. A Rotterdammer came up and forcefully put the case that the f&c stay and they did—until the Rotterdammer and his family left the camp. Then the food was dreadful 7 days a week. I think Mum lived off coleslaw.

Lunches? We asked for sultana sandwiches then threw away the stale bread and ate the sultanas!

After 6 months we left the camp, thankfully, to lodge with someone in his house for a low rent plus Mum was housekeeper and late 1960 we moved into our own house.

Not good memories of either camp. I will download a couple of photos for a “memories of SA” series as I will be moving to Tasmania: the summers in Adelaide are getting just too hot.

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