In the five decades following the Second World War tens of thousands of 'new arrivals' were accommodated in migrant hostels across South Australia. Informed by research undertaken in partnership with The University of Adelaide, Hostel Stories is the first attempt to bring together their history.


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

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Finsbury / Pennington

Finsbury, later known as Pennington, was the longest running of South Australia's hostels. In 1985 communal living facilities were closed, Nissen huts were dismantled, and the ‘new Pennington’ began the transition to independent family units. 

Location: Near Main Junction Road in Finsbury North (now Grand Junction Road in Pennington), adjacent to Glenroy Street.

Years operated: Finsbury 1949-1966, renamed Pennington 1966-mid 1990s

Administered by: Commonwealth Government

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Gepps Cross

The distinctive rows of Nissen huts at Gepps Cross provided the image that springs to mind for many South Australians at the mention of migrant hostels. Gepps Cross featured frequently in the press and government promotional material, and is still remembered by many today.

Location: Grand Junction Road, at the corner of Main North Road and Port Wakefield Road (then Gawler Road)

Years operated: 1951 - c.1965

Administered by: Commonwealth Government (1951 – 1952) State Government (1952 – c.1965) 

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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 

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Country towns like Mallala in South Australia were a completely new landscape for Displaced Persons arriving from Europe. The heat and the dust made a big impression on new migrants.

Location: On the site of the former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base, now the race track, Mallala

Years operated: 1950-1951

Administered by: Commonwealth Government

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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

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One of the worst migrant hostels in South Australia, Rosewater consisted of converted wool stores partitioned for accommodation. Stories from former residents feature the shock and disappointment at their first sight of Rosewater hostel, and some recall rats and snakes in the buildings.

Location: Off Rosewater Road (now Bedford Street), Port Adelaide

Years operated: 1950-1953

Administered by: Commonwealth Government

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Semaphore hostel appears to have been home to young single men working in the area. Its proximity to the beach provided at least one attraction for residents.

Location: Hart Street, Semaphore, in buildings previously used as the Semaphore Police Training College

Years operated: 1949-1956

Administered by: State Government     

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Smithfield, when the migrant hostel opened, was an isolated rural area. It took about an hour by train to get to Adelaide city centre. Apart from the migrant hostel there were some railway cottages and farm buildings and not much else.

Location: The former army ordnance depot near the Smithfield Railway Station, between Coventry Road and the railway line

Years operated: 1949-1971

Administered by: Commonwealth Government

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Willaston, near Gawler, operated for two distinct periods, the first housing Displaced Persons, the second British migrants. Despite some early tensions, the local township of Gawler actively welcomed migrants into the social life of the community with a variety of concerts, parties and outings.

Location: Gawler, in the former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) camp, now the site of the Elliot Goodger Memorial Park.

Years operated: 1949 – 1952 & 1955 – 1956

Administered by: Commonwealth

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