Whyalla in the post-war era was a boom town with a large influx of migrants arriving from a diverse range of countries. New houses were being built as rapidly as possible. Milpara provided a place to stay while migrants waited for their new homes to be ready.

Location: Lacey Street, Whyalla, on the site of the current council depot

Years operated: 1949-c.1977

Administered by: Commonwealth and State Governments and BHP

Place: The first residents of the Milpara hostel in Whyalla were intended to be ‘150 immigrant building tradesmen and 50 assistants’. In the post-war era Whyalla expanded rapidly as hundreds of migrants arrived, most to work for BHP. Houses were needed to accommodate this influx.

Buildings were moved from a former army camp at Hummocky Hill and placed on new foundations on Lacey Street. BHP had already built two single men’s quarters around the site of the current day Whyalla Maritime Museum. These were built to accommodate workers at BHP, as was a portion of Milpara. 

Single men’s quarters were long, barrack style buildings or small huts with rooms just big enough to fit a bed, a small beside chest of drawers and a narrow wardrobe. Rooms for families were slightly larger, but still basic. They conformed to the standard hostel style with metal beds, hostel-allocated linen, perhaps a small table and chairs, and the same drawers and wardrobe. 

As with other migrant hostels, dining, shower, toilet, and laundry facilities were communal. It appears residents were able to access local medical facilities rather than an on site hospital as was usual in Commonwealth-run hostels. It was possible for residents to walk to local shops and other facilities. 


We all had a single bed, there were no double beds for a couple … and a single metal cupboard, a small table with two chairs … so the children sat on the beds and Paul stood in his cot … it was the lack of water that concerned me a lot. The fact that you were in that room, you couldn’t do anything else yourself. You had to go to the kitchen hall, dining hall, if you wanted a drink. 
Hazel Redford, Milpara 1967, interviewed 2013


People: Milpara accommodated Displaced Persons and assisted migrants from a range of European countries. There were concerns early in the life of the hostel that British migrants were not happy and were leaving Whyalla. Various parliamentary debates and newspaper articles raised the issue, with the Premier Thomas Playford arguing that British migrants, unlike Displaced Persons, were not compelled to stay in Whyalla.

Once house-building gained pace, through the South Australian Housing Trust and the BHP Employees Assisted Housing Scheme, British migrants employed by BHP were given priority in the allocation of housing. Interviews with former residents suggest that in the 1960s and 1970s British arrivals usually only stayed a few nights at the Milpara hostel while they waited for a house to be prepared. Assisted migrants from other countries often lived at Milpara for weeks, or months, at a time.

A variety of publications, and at least one film, were produced to provide potential migrants and new residents with information about Whyalla. There were also efforts to welcome new arrivals to Whyalla. The names and place of origin of migrants were published in the newspapers when a new ship arrived and Whyalla residents often visited the hostel, particularly to welcome people from locations close to where they themselves were from. An active Good Neighbour Council committee, Young Women’s Christian Association and various other community groups visited the hostel. They organised a number of services, such as English lessons and social activities including dances. Hostel residents were able to attend the local open air cinema, the Ozone, in Whyalla. 

The following is a starting point for material related to the Milpara hostel. Much of the information that appears on this webpage is based on archival research undertaken by Dr Karen Agutter and from interviews with Milpara hostel residents. The oral history interviews will be available at the State Library of South Australia once the Hostel Stories project is completed.The Argus, 11 August 1948, 'Labour pool of migrants for South Australia'The Advertiser, 11 December 1948, 'Whyalla's zest for action'The Chronicle, 2 December 1948, '30,000 Pound migrant hostel at Whyalla'The Advertiser, 10 February 1949, 'Migrant hostel now being built - Whyalla'The Chronicle, 17 April 1952, 'Whyalla film for migrants'The Advertiser, 15 December 1954, 'Christmas parties for new Australians'


We arrived in the summer of 1967, with my brother Stephen,Father Darrel & mother Margaret.

Corinne Ball's picture

Thanks for sharing, David :-)

Mum, Dad, Wendy Susan and I arrived at Milpara 19/5/66. Think we got keys for 8 Boettcher St 21/5/66. £10 Poms for BHP.

Corinne Ball's picture

Thanks for the recollections, Paul, what a great memory you have!

Our family arrived October 1966 Ian & Betty Robertson Donald Carol and David 50 years this year wow.

Corinne Ball's picture

50 years, a long time! Hope you have good memories of your hostel time

Our family arrived in May 1972 Robert and Megan Jones along with Gordon Jones and Karen Jones, we stayed at MIlpara til we were given a house 14 Norton Street mum is still there.

Corinne Ball's picture

Thankyou for those memories, Karen, nice to hear of the family's continuing connection to Whyalla :-)

My family, Mum Dad and my two brothers age 9 and 6 and myself aged 11, arrived in October 1967 and we stayed in the hostel for three weeks while out house was being built in Hutchens Street Whyalla Stuart. We walked out there one day when we got the address and it was the last street before the bush back then and there were no footpaths or tarmac on the street. When we moved in there was kerbs but no foot paths and the tarmac was laid on the street about a week after we got into the house. We used to see small fires out of the back of our house at night time and some people told us it was Aboriginals cooking their catch from hunting.Most of the families in our street were friends we had made on the boat travelling out here (Fairsky) so at least we knew our neighbours. Our stay in Whyalla lasted ten years until the shipyard shut down and we moved to WA to BHP over there.

Corinne Ball's picture

Thanks for those memories, Michelle. Whyalla has certainly changed a lot in the last few years

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