Our branch of the Hipkin family were ‘ten pound poms’ in Australia from 1951 to 1955. (Aussie rhyming slang: immigrant = pomegranate = pommy = pom.*see footnote   Most UK immigrants paid £10 and entered the country on an ‘assisted passage’ scheme).  I was only twelve years old when we left the UK, so I wasn’t consulted on the rationale for our relocation to the other side of world, but I guess that it was a combination of our Dad’s itchy feet and occasional correspondence with his very elderly penpal Uncle Sam Hipkin (aka Sam Armiger or Sam Armature). 

According to family lore, Sam was from the Hipkin family branch in Syderstone in Norfolk, where he allegedly shot and wounded a gamekeeper and was smuggled away by his younger brother under a wagonload of turnips (or cabbages, or sugar beet, your choice) to Kings Lynn, then to Tilbury where he stowed away on a ship bound for Australia. 

Safely ‘down under’ Sam changed his name twice to avoid detection and went on to prosper in the construction business in Enfield NSW – this was in the early years of the 20th century, but Sam remained a part of the family and Dad exchanged letters with him up to the outbreak of war in 1939.  In these later letters, Sam’s tone was encouraging, laying great store on the advantages of life ‘down under’ and promising a job and assistance with accommodation if our family decided to emigrate. 

Sadly, and as with so many other plans, the Second World War put paid to any early realisation of these dreams.  All sponsored emigration ceased because ships were required for the war effort, and Dad spent the war years working as a Radial-Arm Drilling Machine Operator in the gun-shop at the Vickers-Armstrong factory on Elswick Road in Newcastle.

Our parents were very frustrated at the lack of progress with the Australian Immigration authorities, so we were surprised when acceptance agreements came from Australia House, with tickets and arrangements to join RMS Otranto at Tilbury on 14th June 1951. This caused a mad scatter of excitement, packing our stuff, leaving school, travelling back up to Gateshead to say goodbye to those few family members that Mam was still ‘speaking to’, then down to Tilbury for our big adventure.  

During this hectic period Dad sent a last letter to Sam, to let him know that we were finally coming and our arrival schedule at Sydney.  This was the polite thing to do, and was essential because Sam was our ‘sponsor’ and the guarantor that we wouldn’t become a burden on the Aussie State, etc.


This was in the days before mass air travel, and when our relatives came to see us off at Tilbury, they thought that this would be the last time that they would ever see us, so it was tears and big hugs all round before we boarded – then paper streamers joined ship to shore as Otranto slipped her moorings and slowly edged away from the quayside and the streamers snapped, one by one.  

We were excited, running up and down and exploring our floating home, but Mam cried as the shore of England receded and the ship turned south, bearing us away to our new life, perhaps never to return.

The voyage was something out of a cruise brochure — Otranto was a big ship carrying many passengers (we were on ‘H’ deck, with portholes submerged when the ship rolled) and she also carried a fair amount of cargo. 

This was in the postwar declining period of the British Empire, but Britain still had substantial overseas possessions serviced by vessels like the Otranto.  We called at Port Said in Egypt, through the Suez Canal and the Great Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea at Port Suez, then Aden, then Colombo, then across the Indian Ocean before reaching Perth, Australia.  

Shipboard life was great, but the Dining Room was something of a puzzle, with rows of knives and forks, plus menu items like ‘Brown Windsor Soup’ and ‘Sole Bonne Femme’ — dishes that hadn’t appeared very often on menus back in Gateshead.  

Salt tablets were also on the menu, a standard 1950s practice and something that could cause major stomach upsets, but we were resilient — something that would be tested more fully in the weeks and months to come. 

Bad news — Back to Earth

Between Perth and Adelaide, our Uncle Harvey (my mother’s brother and my favourite Uncle) sent us a telegram with some very bad news.  Sam’s family had belatedly responded to Dad’s post-departure telegram and been trying to contact us in Britain, to delay or prevent our embarkation.  This was because Sam had suddenly become very ill (he died in 1952) and his elderly daughters didn’t want the stress of dealing with us and formally withdrew their sponsorship.  

This was shattering for our parents — they had burned their boats financially, had no money, no home and no furniture, had three kids still at school and the family was going to a foreign land 12,000 miles from home.

The situation became even more complicated when Australian Immigration found out that our sponsorship deal had evaporated.  This was only a few years after WWII and some desperate people were trying to get into countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand by destroying their papers and changing identity to avoid being charged as war criminals.  

The Aussie Immigration people suspected that we belonged to one or other of these categories, so they took us and our gear off the ship in Melbourne and arranged to send us to quarantine while matters were sorted out.  Our destination was Bonegilla, on the Victoria/NSW border, a camp mainly for non-UK migrants, but with a special section for ‘displaced persons’ like us. This was more bad news, but things got worse as the crane lifted our gear out of the ship.  The driver dropped our crates onto the quayside and our crockery and breakables were smashed.  We had no insurance (the unsigned Proposal Form was in Mam’s papers when she died).  This was the last straw – Mam counted the coins in her purse then sat on the broken boxes and wept as if her heart was broken.


Waking up in an old wooden hut at Bonegilla Camp, with grass growing through cracks in the floor and with loudspeakers giving orders for the day, my first thought was that we had strayed onto a movie set, and that I would soon wake up.  I felt better when we located the dining room, although the food was bland, then better still when we learned there were other kids in the camp, and we could come and go as we pleased (although our parents had travel restrictions).

Over the following days we explored the area, climbing over the dam on the Hume reservoir, and watching large mobs of kangaroos bounding over the hillsides.  We admired the cockatoos and colourful galahs in the trees that surrounded the camp, and the possums that sat on the roofs of the huts at night. Thankfully,  we had been at Bonegilla for only a short time when Dad found a job at his trade in a factory in the suburbs of Melbourne and we transferred to Brooklyn, a very large hostel not far from Footscray – a  hostel that we later learned had acquired a reputation as the toughest establishment in the system.  

Our ‘home’ for the remainder of our Australian sojourn, this was the place that finally broke our parent’s determination to succeed in a new life – but also where we escaped from parental control and gained almost complete freedom to roam and to do our own thing.

How the Aussies got it wrong

After WWII, the Australian Government decided that medium-term economic development would be retarded unless the population could be increased by skilled and semiskilled immigrants. Various initiatives were started, including subsidised travel and a guarantee of hostel rooms until permanent housing could be obtained. These schemes were very successful, with huge numbers of people coming into the country, but provision of accommodation and availability of jobs lagged behind.

To clear the backlog, old wool stores were converted into primitive lodgings and wartime Nissen huts were re-erected in rows and streets, with communal dining and laundry rooms.  Functional and austere in appearance, these places may have been adequate if used on the planned short-term basis — but the weekly ‘tariff’ payable meant that the typical migrant family had to pay most of their weekly wages in rent. 

This simple fact trapped many families in the hostel system, obviating any possibility of finding their own place, and guaranteeing that they lived in relative poverty.  

Socially, the policy was even more disastrous — the system ghettoised foreign communities in out-of-town locations without onsite facilities or diversions: no jobs, no shops, no pubs, no churches, no communal hall.  

Also, by this date any Australian preference for British migrants was over and the inevitable hostel disturbances brought critical condemnation from the newspapers, the ‘whingeing pom’ tag being widely used and enthusiastically repeated by schoolmates and the man in the street.  

Unsurprisingly, up to 30% of British immigrants became disenchanted by these conditions and returned ‘home’ although quite a few then emigrated for a second time.

Our new Home

En route from the station, the bus picked people up from other hostels before pulling through the gates at Brooklyn, where a one-man reception committee was waiting. A fellow Geordie, this man climbed into the bus to introduce himself, to tell us the basic stuff about the camp, but in particular to warn parents about the bottom areas of the camp, where poliomyelitis was apparently rampant, and where there had been riots and a major fire when Italian migrants were evicted for not paying their rent.  

The adults were horrified, concerned at what they were bringing their families into, worried about their kids getting polio (this was before Dr Salk’s vaccine), and wondering if emigration was a good idea after all.

We passed the concrete bases of burned-out sheds, then huge warehouse buildings on either side.  These were originally built as bulk stores for bales of wool, but the outside walls were now pierced with rows of windows and we could see people coming and going through large door openings in the sides and gable ends. 

The sheds were very large, about 200 feet wide by 500 feet long, subdivided into ‘flats’ of three or four rooms each, with walls of 4 x 2 inch studs clad with ordinary hardboard on the outside.  The inside faces were unlined, with the timber frame showing.  Ceilings were clad with hardboard, with a central section left open for ventilation and covered with wire netting to prevent birds from flying in. Flats around the shed periphery had windows that opened onto the outside world, but the inside flats simply opened onto the interior of the shed. 

From safety, privacy, or other humane viewpoints, the accommodation was unsatisfactory for anything other than an overnight stay and would certainly have been condemned as long-term accommodation for prisoners-of-war.

Bounded on one side by the large and very smelly Borthwick’s abattoir and meatpacking plant, Brooklyn had run down houses and vacant building lots to the other side.  In front was a green field with a smoky and dirty steelworks to the side and the back fence opened onto a wasteland of old quarry workings.  

These were generally part-filled with chemically polluted water of unusual hue and were surrounded by scrubby areas with derelict factory buildings and shacks – a paradise of things for boys with time on their hands to explore, climb, swim in and fall from. 

Migrants were forbidden to cook in their accommodation, so we ate in the communal canteen (the food was awful) and rarely saw our parents (Dad was soon working overtime, Mam worked unsocial hours in the Hostel canteen, later as a Barmaid in Footscray), so we used our newfound freedoms to the full, made new friends and found our way around the local scene.

The Nissen Hut

After a year or so in the woodshed we had good news — we were to transfer into a Nissen hut.  The even better news was that brother Brian and I would live on the opposite side of the hut from our parents and would have our own front door (we were No 12, they were No 1!).

Extra space and freedom brought new opportunities for our interests in music (especially Jazz and Swing) and short-wave radio.  We had accumulated some ancient radio equipment, stuff that Brian supplemented with home made receivers and record turntables attached to bits of plywood and with wire aerials slung across our room we would sit up late at night, listening on headphones to the arcane chatter of radio ‘hams’.  

The new privacy appealed to me because I was firmly in the grip of teenage angst and could keep away from my parents – communication being largely restricted to weekends. 

Qutside our new home just prior to a swim in the sea at Altona Beach.  L to R Brian Hipkin, Dennis Mole, Douglas Megson, Jim Adcock, Trevor Hipkin.
Dad and Malcolm

Summer temperatures were a big problem for hut dwellers, the corrugated-iron soaked up the heat and reflected it inwards, ensuring that the unfortunate occupants slept in pools of perspiration.

I left school at 14 and worked in Smorgons combined abattoir and fruit cannery (yes, really!), while Brian was an apprentice with the Civil Aviation people and we both handed our unopened wage packets into the ‘repatriation fund’ so that the family could accumulate enough cash to come ‘home’ to the UK, although in truth we had nothing to come home to – no house, no jobs, no assets of any kind.

But that’s another story.

If you have photos of Brooklyn, or old documents, etc, then please comment in the box provided and I will be happy to show your stuff on this blog.


In the 1950’s schoolyard at Williamstown High School this was more usually heard as ‘pommybastard’ or ‘whingeingpommybastard’. 


53 thoughts on “Brooklyn Migrant Hostel 1951 – 1955 – A Hipkin family tale

  1. Very interesting, i once posted a comment on Facebook ” Do you think the Australian government got it wrong “i was amazed that many remainers saw me as ungrateful!

  2. Hi Martin, there you have it, my very own recollections of how things were back in the 1950s. Try googling Brooklyn and you’ll see newspaper clippings that bring more insights. 😀

  3. Very good read
    I don’t think I realized how lucky we were as we had sponsors both times for our assisted passages and went straight to house and jobs I was only 2 the first time so no memories of this at all this was the one from Glasgow on Empire Brent 1948 we went back to UK 19/12/56 on the Otranto returning to Oz on the Arcadia March 1960 very good memories of these two trips very A happy Geordie lass whose parents made the right choices lots more but as this your story I’ve been a bit rude but being a Geordie and same ship you must be a good lad.
    I really enjoyed your story

  4. We came to Brooklyn in 1960 arriving on Australia in 1961. I was almost 4 so can’t remember much. Mum and dad were also from the north east of England and dad didn’t want the boys to go down the pits. We came on the Orsova. I just recently went on a cruise and could not believe how many women I met who were the daughters of ten pound poms who love sea travel. Even though I was so young when we came here I still feel very at home on a ship. I will show my older brother your story he was 8 so remembers much more. My dad loved the voyage as he was an old sailor but mum was sick the whole time and also very homesick. We went back to England for a holiday in 1971 as my dad survived the collapse of the Westgate bridge in Melbourne and wanted to see his family. Mum and dad visited again in 1981. I will try and find photos of the hostel.

  5. Thank you Trevor for sharing your story. I arrived with my parents & two younger brothers in January 1964 aboard the Aurelia. I was 12yrs old.
    We were taken to Fisherman’s Bend Hostel in Port Melbourne as my dad had a job at GAF. I too wasn’t consulted on their decision to emigrate & wasn’t keen on the idea when I was told. This was made worse as I was informed in June ‘63 that they had applied to go to Australia but it would be at least two years before we would leave. Two years is a long time at that age so nothing to worry about…. Suddenly in September we got accepted & were leaving in December. My dad said ‘we’re going for two years & if we don’t like it we’ll come back. Well, we stayed.
    As you say, Brooklyn did have a reputation in those days. I was lucky because Fisherman’s Bend wasn’t too bad & we finished up moving to Norlane Hostel in Geelong a few months later. I enjoyed hostel life.
    I think we all have similar threads in our stories. Some, like yours, are more dramatic. I am proud to be a Ten Pound Pom, or at least the daughter of TPP’s. Once again, thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks Lynda. All of this is officially history now, so it’s important that we get our stories into the archives.

  7. Fantastic read! We were at Brooklyn in 1960 arriving 6th January. I was 7 but I still remember the smell! We returned to UK in 1962 and came back to Sydney in 1969. A busy childhood indeed

  8. Great read. Thank you. I too was in Brooklyn along with mum and dad and my two big sisters. Dad.soon got a job at.Monsanto and mum in a factory. My sister’s were both at school so as a 5 year.old I was left at home to roam! An older girl and I hitch hiked to Altona for a swim one day and made it safely Bach home again. Makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck to think about it now and what could have happened to me! I remember my sister Marlene doing the.ironing in the communal laundry and some boys were.teasing her, so she slammed the hot iron down on one boys hand! Any of you TPP lads.out there with a.scarred hand?

  9. My family had friends who lived on Brooklyn Hostel, we used to visit them often. We lived on Holmesglen Hostel, near Ashburton from 1964 to 1967 when we returned to England because my Mum was very homesick.

  10. Hi Beverley. We left Brooklyn in 1955, so I’m sure that things were different for your friends ten years later. It was a grim place for our parents but OK for kids because we just ran wild! Let me know if you have any photos of Brooklyn, I will happily put them on web page.

  11. Our family of 4 arrived January 59 on PO Iberia after an eventful trip where for first week we came through very bad storm in Mediterranean and old lady from out table fell down stairs and died, then l picked up chicken pox in Aden and it went through whole boat and all women and children were isolated from men who had to bunk in together, father and friend stopped man jumping overboard and he was put in cell opposite us in hospital and used to pile up furniture and sit on top nude. I was not very popular with anyone!

    When we arrived in Melbourne we were taken to Brooklyn Hostel to be housed in a Nissan hut. We had left Scotland where they had worst winter in many years, snow a metre deep at front door and our first 3 days outside temperatures at Brooklyn were 104, 103, 102 deg F. Around 42-44c. Inside huts was higher. The stench from the neighbouring Borthwick’s abattoir was nauseating.
    We then visited the toilet/laundry blocks that were filthy with sinks, baths and washing machines full of vegetable peels etc. mostly from Italian and other European people who contrary to rules cooked edible food in their huts rather than eat the awful bland/tasteless British/Aust meals offered in canteen.
    A few families left in 1st and 2nd days and sailed back to Britian on same boat. My mother cried non stop for first 3 weeks. When my 5yo sister and l lay on beds we hit the floor. We all had to store cases under beds to stop hitting floor, the furniture was sparce and basic.
    My father who had short fuse at best of times took his frustrations out on all of us physically. But we escaped outside as much as possible and found families who had been living in hostel for up to 8 years and had fridges, stereos and TVs which were dragged outside and watched by dozens of people.
    We started at local school in February and found l was around 2 years ahead of Aust curriculum and after big fight they agreed to put me up one year, so started the beginning of it being a bored difficult child.
    Lots of days we would leave for school and there would be hundreds of sheep in the surrounding yards and empty when we came home. We used to wonder where they went and also what the awful smell in air was from. The innocence of childhood.
    We left hostel after 7 months as my mother was wasting away through not eating canteen food. We moved into a small bungalow in the backyard of family in Altona. After 18 months we moved into our own house at Blackburn early as builder went broke and father finished it off himself.
    Years later we met some families we knew in hostel and they were still living there.
    I have photos taken at hostel l will upload in month or so.

  12. I loved all stories. Mine is a little different. My mum,dad, brother and me left tilbury dock in app 1952 on the otranto heading for Melbourne. My brother and I had a wild time (he 6 me 7) after being babied before leaving England we had a wild time on the ship. We were told there was some sort of illness in Melbourne so we were dropped at Sydney where we lived at east hills hostel. (Nissan huts)Dad had to go work at lightning ridge as he was a carpenter/builder. Mum worked at canteen. My brother and I were left to play, make new friends, explore and swap comics. Loved every minute. Dad came back and we left the hostel to finally make our own way. We moved out in the bush with no electricity into a caravan. A place called Cambridge park (about two miles from Penrith) I have loved my life. Sadly mum and dad have passed. Enough?

  13. I spent nearly three years on Preston Hostal 57/60 my parents decided to return to UK and then my father got killed in an accident at work Easter 59 and then I got polio. Your story as mine gives a history into the live of a Pom. I will always remember my time in Aus. Lived in UK ever since.

  14. I arrived here in June 1957 Mum Dad and 7 kids,we had to go to a place in the Exhibition Building at Carlton the flats there were not to bad we stayed there for 10 days. Were taken by bus to Brooklyn Hostel they took us straight to the canteen for afternoon tea, the smell from the meatworks was dreadful. we were then taken to our nissen hut well my poor mum just sat there and cried. I was not very long Dad had a job at Williamstown Dockyard and mum got a job in the canteen. we were there for 4 years it was great for us kids there was always heaps for us to do My mum & dad made a lot of good friends that lasted for years.When we left the hostel we went to live in a new house in Fawkner. This is only a brief part of life on the hostel I could go on and on but time does not permit and I would be worried that I would start boring everyone

  15. Thanks Trevor, glad I found this, I read your memoirs with joy, and enjoyed the photos you published in them, and now I am reading all these postings with pleasure. Love to the Hipkins. Beryl.x

  16. Thank you Trevor for such an interesting and inspiring story. Thanks also to you Marg for sharing your experience . My story too is similar but I never realised how lucky we were coming to Whyalla in 1968 as we did not experience the awful conditions that some did having to go to the hostels in the cities. I hope all TPP”s record their stories somewhere as the 50″s, 60″s and 70″s were such a pivotal time in Australian history. In Whyalla our National Trust Museum is starting a collection of TPP stories to preserve that particular aspect of our history which was so vital and included the development of the ship building industry and steel production. Maybe your own local museums might be interested in collecting your stories too. Thank you for what you have written here I look forward to reading lots more.

  17. Very interesting. I was only 8 but I remember the bus pulling in through the gates and mum thinking we were stopping at a factory for afternoon tea ! We spent the first couple of weeks at bonagiila hostel after landing in melb, train to NSW and then training it back to melb. Interesting, my mother also got a job as a barmaid in Footscray. Think the hotel was called the Royal! On Barclay St I think

  18. We arrived as a family of two boys and a sister about 1959 at Brooklyn camp. Me and my brother spent good fun days collecting sheep clips from the animals waiting to be killed in the Borthwicks aboutour. We used to crawl under the huts to find the kittens new born from the many cats living wild in the camp. One day we found a dead tiger snake and put it in the bath of the ladies shower hut. Dinner was not great we seemed to eat a lot of rabbit most of which we feed to the cats. We never moved out of the camp as are parents decided that Australia was not the place for us so we returned to Portsmouth in 1962.
    Graham Harris and family
    8th January 2019

  19. We arrived in February 1955 , mum, dad, my brother and myself, I was 3 and a half my brother 18 months. We were given a Nissan hut from day one. Our luggage had been left behind in Southampton so only had hand luggage and £25. Dad got work straight away he was a mechanic, mum was a tailoress and she worked for Jews in Melbourne. My brother and I use to go to the Kindergarten at the front of the hostel. We stayed there for 2 years, mum and dad bought a block of land in Brooklyn for a £100 and then had a house built. Mum hated the hostel but they made lots of lifelong friends. I have lots of photos. Infact one of my photos was chosen by Destination Australia and featured in the National Archives exhibition A Ticket to Paradise which toured Australia. I didn’t even know. My brother lived in Townsville and they went to the exhibition my sister-in-law spotted the photo and said to my brother hey that’s you and Linda at the hostel. So that was a nice surprise

  20. Hi Linda. Thanks for the comments! I would be very happy to show copies of any Brooklyn photos as attachments to the article that you commented on. Please contact me privately by email at hellotrevor@icloud.com if this is of interest?

  21. Hi my names rob we arrived at the hostel on 13/1/1955. Conditions weren’t that bad I remember the food was a bit average we sailed on the Otranto to men and boys together in cabins women and girls in cabins talk about segregation I was only 5years old there was a bit of bullying amongst the boys from there to the Olympic village in 1957 after the 1956 olimpics in the hostel my folks did a lot of there cooking in the hut on a Primus stove lol anyway nice to read your comments cheers

  22. I am laying in bed reading your stories. I have loved them.
    I came over at 21 years with a very dear friend. My first 2 years were so different. We came t Sydney in 1965, October I believe. Not a lot of money. We went to a ladies hostel in Rhodes . we didn’t stay long before we moved to a bed sitter in north Sydney . we certainly had to get work then as we were pretty broke. I did get homesick, and missed mainly my friend. Still here after 55 years. 1970 went back. Spent the best part of a year there. My relationship with my mother strained to say the least, came back at the end of December 1970. Bit hard to take as I really would have loved to have stayed. No regrets, too late for all that.

  23. I was born Australia 1948. and lived opposite Brooklyn Migrant Hostel. at 4 Millers rd….house my Dad built. When Brooklyn Primary School opened Oct 1953. I think. I started straight in Grade 1 …there was no prep year then. Next year at school photo there were 52 kids my class (that day) and possibly more arriving during the year. Mostly British at first then influx of Dutch,German,Maltese,White Russian,Ukrainian,Polish,Italian,Latvian,Estonian,Hungarian + possibly others. There were only 2 Aussie born kids our grade….John Buckley…later successful hairdresser Kingsville, and self Avril Privett. ( had bros. Leigh b 1945,Doug. B 1958. and sis Yvonne b1954….. 3 of us were very young in our grades so if you were born one year before us may still have been in same grade..
    I was always drafted to sit next new arrival + teach them English and help with school work. So crowded ,
    Often new arrival would have to sit between 2 of us at the old wooden ..lift the flap …desks
    My parents often helped and advised local migrants re jobs,education and housing. and many simply moved across the road and started building….bungalows,garages to live in, half houses to share/live in.
    Building supplies like bricks,and roof tiles were in short supply post war and during building boom. My dad built bunks,shelves,cupboards etc out of fruit boxes and other industrial crates. We had kerosene heaters and wood stove for cooking/hot water.
    You worked..you could get on..but now realise the culture shock for the Europeans. And the homesickness especially for the women often stuck home with bubs . and toddlers.
    And you couldn’t spend on coffees,mobile phones,takeaways. My mum used to ride her bike round to Gilbertsons/Smorgans meat works and buy cheap but nutritious cuts of meat.And we grew some fruit/veg. She sewed our clothes and darned/ mended too. Hardly any photos those days.Went back to school for open day when it. was to be decommissioned. …became part of Road Traffic Authority.
    I later married a 10 pound Pom. Who didn’t stay a hostel.

  24. Thanks Avril! Really appreciate these historical references, vital that we get it written down.

  25. Such interesting history. Gave me goosebumps. I went to school with Averil Privet at Brooklyn state.
    Maureen Wilson Was a bit older but I was good mates with her brother Hugh Wilson
    I’m interested in all the history.

  26. Hi Trevor, I’ve found reading your story & all the others on here, a wonderful trip down memory lane. I too am a Daughter of TPP’s and think myself very lucky to have immigrated to Australia. Just like you we lived on Brooklyn Hostel. We left Southend-On-Sea to leave from Southampton July 29th (I think) on the TV Fairsky and arrived at Port Melbourne on August 28th 1960. What a shock it was to all our dear Mums! Many cried and wanted to go back “Home”. The Hostel was a very hard learning curve for all of us naive Poms. Our Dads seemed to cope better & just got on with it! My dear Mum got a job at Borthwick’s & my dear Dad had many jobs in the construction industry. World Service was just one of his jobs (I think they were somewhere on Millers Rd.) He worked on the natural gas pipe line from Lakes Entrance, out in Bass Strait on the oil rigs, and eventually on the Westgate Bridge. What a character he was… Always a “Clown”, he turned up at work when Prince Charles was visiting the site dressed as a kind of loyalist. Well, management was not impressed & promptly sacked him!!! When his comrades in the Union found out, they banded together & were going to pull a strike, right in front of H.R.H. & play a game of cricket right there on the unfinished Westgate Bridge. Common sense took hold… & my Dad was reinstated on the spot…. After all, he did have on his steel caps! Lol. Anyway, I digress… It was just the 3 of us that came out here, our little Family. I attended Brooklyn Primary School with Avril Smith’s Sister Yvonne Privett and attended her Birthday party (8th maybe?) at their home. We stayed on the hostel for nearly 3 yrs before moving into a home with an elderly Man in Sommerville Rd, West Footscray. What a joy to be living in a house again! Mum was chief cook, cleaner & all round dogsbody (she still worked @ Borthwicks) I have lovely memories living with this older Gentleman, he was a Builder by trade & built many homes in & around the area… reaching as far as what is now known as Altona Meadows. He too was a POM & welcomed us with open arms, I called him Uncle Harry (Cox) We got to meet & became involved with his many relatives over the years, a great bunch of people… & I thank him very much for providing us with shelter & Family. After a year living there, Mum & Dad finally had enough money for a deposit to buy our home in Yarraville. I attended Kingsville Primary School and then Footscray High which was situated in Wembley Ave, Spottswood… Sadly they pulled it down! Over our 60 years here in this wonderful Land of Oz, I have managed to keep in touch with many of our adopted Families from Brooklyn Hostel.. Including Scottish, Irish, Yugoslav & Finnish. It has been a fantastic journey living here for 60 years & I wouldn’t change a thing! No Regrets! Sorry if I’ve rambled on too much, but I did enjoy writing it.

  27. It is so good reading stories similar to mine. My dad loved construction work so we followed him from Brooklyn to Morwell Geelong and back to Altona where we stayed until 1976. Dad John Grist was killed on the west gate collapse and after some awful years trying to get past it I now live in Richmond Nsw. . I have never been back to uk although my children have holidayed there. I am ever grateful to my parents for bringing me here it will be 70 years next year.

  28. Loved reading all these memories, my mum dad sister and myself lived in a nissan but in Brooklyn hostel. My name then was Lynda Holmes 4 my sister was Ann 6, we arrived in 1951. After a couple of years my parents built in Brooklyn. My sister went to the Brooklyn state school also. And I do remember the name Avril Privet, it’s a small world after all.

  29. I was 10 when our family arrived at Brooklyn in 1961. Our hut numbered F4 was in the final row before what was then Borthwicks Cattle yards and Abattoir. Within 6 months or so there was a fire in the Dining Hall which was destroyed. So they took our Youth Club (in another former wool shed) to make the new dining hall – end of Youth Club then. I have a photo that appeared in the Hostels Magazine following the fire – my Dad front and centre – having breakfast before going off to work. We stayed on the Hostel for 2 years – Mum worked at Borthwicks, Dad went into partnership decorating business but after 2 years we came home to UK. Never regretted going nor coming home either.

  30. At Brooklyn with parents and 3 siblings from June 1960 for 18 months, from Salford, loved time on ship, Strathnaver & time at Hostel, so many things for young kid to do, though as stated Smell from Bothwicks was horrendous. Lots of games & activities, the Gym opposite the coop where Skip ruled & best of all football against the other Hostels. Our coach was Mr Wilson & his son John played also. A previous poster was Maureen Cooper née Wilson & I’m positive she was our coach’s oldest daughter, I knew her family well & was wondering if there’s any way I could get a message to her, would love to chat as haven’t had contact since 1961, cheers

  31. Keith, I asked permission to disclose Maureen’s email, I’ll get back to you if she responds positively.

  32. Hi Trevor, I was on the same voyage as you, Otranto sailed 14th June 1951 but I was only 3 and a half. I remember the trip through the suez canal and stopping of in Columbo. You have captured the time in Bonegila and Brooklyn hostel beautifully. We lived in the Woolsheds when we arrived and then transferred to a nissen hut quite near the abatoir. There used to be a pile of cork slabs near the abatoirs that us children used to build huts out of. I was one of the first pupils at Brooklyn State School, prior to that I was bused to Francis Street State School. We were in the hostel for a number of years before joining a Housing Scheme where a sizeable chunk of land was bought in Seaholme. The men from a number of hostels in Melbourne would go down to the land and start building the houses. The first House was the “Mcgary” house and the Minister for Immigration, Harold Holt opened the house in a small ceremony. A number of the children from the hostel transferred to Seaholme State School. I went back to the UK in1969 , married one of my fellow passengers who was also returning home. We came back to OZ and both of us got work on the Westgate Bridge rebuild. It is amazing, reading all the comments here, how many people also worked on the bridge, albeit at different times. I now live in Cairns QLD. I have a number of photos of the hostel, the men building the houses in Seaholme and of Harold Holt’s opening and of the rebuilding of the Westgate Bridge. I am unable to upload these photos as I do not know how, But would like to forward them to archives if you know where to send them.

  33. I have read all the articles with great interest. Our family consisting of my mum and dad me 11.9 years, sister 9.11 years, brother 7.6 years and baby bro 9 months came over on the Fairsea leaving Southampton Docks on 7th December 1957 and arriving at Port Melbourne Docks on 9th January 1958. Mum and us kids were in one cabin with baby Alistair in a laundry basket for a bed. Dad was up the hall in a cabin with 5 other blokes. We were lucky to be sponsored by my mums sister and her family who lived in Bendigo Victoria. Goes without saying that I in particular had a great time onboard playing with other kids and escaping having to look after our baby and siblings most of the time. One day I was talking to some new friends near their cabin when one of the young stewards put his hand inside my dress touching my breasts. I was paralised and at the first opportunity just made a run for the ladder (steps) to escape. After this incident which I blamed myself for I stuck more closely with my family and didn’t talk about it until years later. We had Christmas and the New Year onboard and a wonderful time crossing the equator. I particularly loved going through the Suez Canal and watching people buying stuff from the vendors in their little boats. Mum and dad spent an evening in Aden whilst I looked after the brood. I was the only one in our family who could not get off the ship at Freemantle as I had a bad case of tonsilitis. How I regreted that, but have been to Perth and Freemantle to make up for it much later. Dad was a bricklayer/builder and found it hard to start with but took what jobs he could, us kids were on holidays for Christmas but enroled in school at the beginning of the school year. My brother and sister went to primary school and I went into first form at the Bendigo Girls’ School. We stayed with our relatives (who had three kids of their own) for 6 weeks and then moved into a rented house in Eaglehawk not far away. Thus started a wonderful adventure for all of us. I now live in Canberra, my sister and brother have passed away as have our parents and there are only 2 green bottles left, my baby bro is really my BIG bro lives with his family in Nhill, Victoria and we keep in close contact. I have been diagnosed with 4th stage cancer so have started writing everything I can think of in my life, and I don’t think I will ever get to the end of the story. Thanks for all the sharing and making me realise that we had it tough but not as tough as most.

  34. I have really enjoyed the trip down memory lane and all the recollections of those times. Although we had nothing we didn’t have to worry about COVID and we could play in the streets until dark without fear.
    It brings back great memories of a wonderful childhood.
    Ann and Linda lived across the road from my sister Wendy and I
    I would love to hear from them abs happy for them to make contact by email
    Wishing everyone from those great times a happy end healthy 2022.
    Keep the correspondence going
    Peter Smith

  35. We left England spring 19 51 sailing on the p@o ranchi which at the time seemed a big ship .the food on the ship was marverless unfortulassy the ship was old and tired ,and weighed only 1700 hundred tons the cabins men on one side woman and children on they over strangely non of the passengers had a passport. First stop port sead on the sues canel next Aden then collumbow next stop fremantal we then limited in to Melbourne stayed there for 10 days before heading to Sydney where we went through customs and integration be for boarding a train (ceow boy train) crossing the blue mountains to batherst waiting out side were no of open backed army trucks to take us to the camp if i trid to describe the camp I do not think any one would beleave me it was the coldest place I have ever been in most of the workers in the camp were d ps from Europe the common langwige of Europe at at that time was German very disconcerting to hear over tanoys every few minitts
    Atong atong fortunately we only stayed there a few weeks be for being taken back to Melbourne
    If any one wishes me to continue my story let me no ps sorry about my spelling

  36. Maureen Cooper nee Wilson, my name is Ron Evans and I remember you well. I can still recall that you called babies ‘bairns’ and crying ‘greetin’. Your dear Dad used to coach us lads in football.

    My early teenage years were spent at Brooklyn Migrant Hostel and I have only fond memories of those times. Do the names Ray Wright, Eddie Fisher, Alan Easterbrook, Stuart and Sheena Culbard mean anything to you at all?

    Anyway Maureen, I send you my very best wishes, and thanks for the memory.

  37. Thank you you Trevor. I just happened upon these posts as so glad I did. I arrived in Australia in April 1951 on the SS New Australia with my mum and dad. I was nearly 4 yo. My parents were also Geordies.

    I don’t really have memories of living at Brooklyn Hostel or how long we were there but I know we were in a Nissan hut and I think I went to the kindergarten there.

    We moved to Footscray and both my parents worked at James Hardie.

    My parents never had any desire to “go back home”. My mother did however go for a visit but that was many many years later and my father never did.

  38. Left England Dec 59 on the strathnaver arrived Jan 60 went to Brooklyn hostel till 62 then we moved to a house in blackshaws rd that my parents got to rent, I was only 9 when we left England

  39. I arrived on brooklyn hostel November the 10th 1963 …made lot’s of friends and have fond memories..played football for hostel and we won the first ever cup for brooklyn in 1964 ..will never forget the smell of borthwicks it was putrid ..but still living I aus to this day ..best move my parents made ..I was the eldest of 5 at 13 years old and one more was born here …

  40. We left England in 1956 when I was 6 years old. We stayed on Brooklyn Hostel for a few years. I can remember walking to the canteen for meals & looking over the fence at the conveyor belt of dead animals at Borthwick’s slaughter yards. I also remember the smell of the Altona Oil Refinery. I will always remember the stale smell of Kippers on Sunday nights in the canteen. My mother worked in a rubber factory & my father worked on the tunnels & pump station pits of the Western Trunk Sewer down to Werribee. The works were adjacent to the hostel, there was a lot of blasting going on. A siren would sound & everyone would run inside the huts. Despite using blasting mats many large rocks flew over the fence making huge dents in the huts. On Saturday nights the motorcycle gang from Altona used to invade the hostel dance. There were lots of fights. There were many different nationalities on the hostel, there were also many divorces. One boy that I knew was killed by a diesel locomotive while playing on the Geelong railway line. My father was a carpenter, we bought a block of land in Glen Waverley & he built a house on it, finally getting away from the hostel.

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