The Wacol Migrant Hostel

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p37ap45bp45aWacol Hostel 1965
p47bp38bp29bP48b (Feb 66)
Click on any of the thumbnails to see a larger picture.

After spending ten days at Yungaba, we were finally transferred to the migrant hostel at Wacol.

This was a place where many migrant families lived after arriving in Australia, until they were able to find a job and get a place of their own.

Our first few weeks in the hostel were in a hut made out of corrugated iron, called a “Nissen Hut”. It looked like a tall skinny galvanized iron rainwater tank, sliced down the middle, and turned on its side. They were cast-offs from the Second World War, and made for cheap housing for new arrivals.

After that we were moved into nicer accommodation in wooden huts.

My memories of the hostel are a bit more coherent than my earlier ones:

As a three year old, my first memory of a childcare centre occurs at this time. It was in one of the Nissen huts. Lots of kids were standing around painting on butchers paper attached to easels. I can remember painting just what I felt like – just enjoying splashing the paint on paper. Some of the older kids were painting recognizable things – square shaped houses with triangular roofs, cars with wheels that had spokes in them. I think it was around this time that I started losing that innocent artistic quality that artists speak about where kids forget how to paint what they feel, and start trying to paint like everyone else.

Later I remember going to childcare in a wooden hut. We called it “Nursery School”. Sometimes we’d play on the swings outside the hut, and sometimes inside, sitting at little tables, or playing on makeshift slides setup indoors, presumably when the whether didn’t suit going outside.

The playground was surrounded by (what seemed to me) to be a huge mesh-wire fence. The gate had a curved metal latch on top – so you couldn’t open it unless you were really tall.

I remember queueing up in a “canteen” for meals with all the other migrants. The strong odour of cooking smells, stews, vegetables, custard, and tasting milky tea out of brown/gold china mugs. In the warmer months they had big industrial sized fans on stands that would blow the air around to keep us cool.

I also remember lots of British mums with their kids on the hostel. Many of them were very unhappy. Some of them were really friendly. One lady who I remember as “Mrs Jackson” had a Christmas tree in her hut. The tree seemed huge to me. It was laden with presents and candy canes in its branches. This must have been in December 1965. Her hut seemed magic to me.

I remember mosquito nets in our hut – obviously there to protect English skin that wasn’t used to mosquitoes! My net had a small hole in it that I could poke my finger through.

I remember a small tin bathtub that mum used to wash me in, so that I didn’t have to go up to the shower block at night time.

And I remember dad’s “Rock Garden” at the base of the stairs leading into our wooden hut. I often sat on these stairs, and remember having some of these photos taken on the stairs – especially the one where I’m sitting next to Karen.

Wacol was miles from anywhere. If you walked out the front gate, there was a highway. There were no houses, just an army barracks on the other side of the highway. The only way out, was to buy a car, catch a bus that occasionally came to the hostel, or walk down to Wacol Railway Station, and catch a train into the city.

I remember catching the train into the city with mum after walking down to Wacol station. The manual wooden boom-gates had to be dragged by hand across the road when the train was due, then dragged back across the railway lines to let the cars through.

The city was a magic place, with tall buildings, wind blowing paper up into the sky, crowds of people, and trams. The trams had wooden slat seats, open windows, and leather straps hanging from the ceiling. And sparks used to fly from roof attachment that drew their power from the overhead cables. All these pictures are still there in the recesses of my early memory.

Here’s some of mum’s recollection of the time:

Because I was pregnant we were the first family to be moved to Wacol hostel. We didn’t really know what to expect. It was situated near bush land. Across the highway from it was the army barracks. We were taken there by taxi. It looked very much like an army camp. There were a lot of wood huts also Nissan huts. They were made of corrugated iron, had doors at each end and usually housed 2 families. This was our first home.

The problem was if you were in one room you would have to go out side to access the other room. This meant one of us had to stay in the room with the Neil & Karen at night, in case they woke up. It was also very cold at night. I honestly had no idea that it got cold in Australia! I was very naïve.

Life on the hostel took a bit of getting used to. Meals were served in a large canteen not an ideal place for a young family. A lot of children were unsupervised. We had to queue up, cafeteria style for our meals. The food was okay, but if you didn’t like it well there was nothing else. The washing was done in a communal laundry, which consisted of 4 laundry tubs, scrubbing boards and a few gas boilers to boil your clothes in. No washing machines or clothes dryers in those days. There were clothes lines near the huts but you had to share them. So a lot of time was spent waiting to do your washing and then finding some where to hang it up to dry. You also had to keep an eye on it in case the washing disappeared!

There were also shower blocks male & female. That was another shock to the system. Not a great place to take small children to get washed. We were supplied with a small tin bath, so mostly we washed the children in the bath in the hut. How ever there was no water connected to the huts, so we would have to carry water back from the laundry. There were a few taps near some of the hunts. This was cold water, so we would have to heat it in the electric jug. When I look back now, it was really quite primitive. It was also very confining transport wise. After a few weeks we bought our first car a Consul.

98 Replies to “The Wacol Migrant Hostel”

  1. Hi,

    We arrived in Wacol Hostel in September 1961 and left about 2 years later in 1963 and moved to Inala, we stayed longer in the hostel than most as my father was one of the cooks in the kitchen, he worked there for about 8 years before opening his own cake shop in Goodna. Have many fond memories of the place, lots of kids from all over the globe to play with. The forts we built on the open land. The play battles we used to have with different nationalities, my little 2 year old brother getting hit in the head with a rock during one of these battles and requiring stiches. The shower and toilet block. The possum family that lived at the top of the furnace to keep warm, the tame kookaburra that used to visit us. My fathers first car, that rolled down the hill because he forgot to put on the hand brake and rolled into a neighbours hut.

    Good reading of your recoleections

    Louis Toorenburg

  2. G’day Louis

    Thanks for adding your memories of the hostel. You must have been a bit older than me when you were there – it sounds like you remember a lot more. Your dad was probably still cook there while our family stayed in 1965/66.


  3. I have many memories about Wacol, I remember the school in the campground I had to go to, I think the teachers name was Mr Michell, didn’t know any english when we arrived, but within 3 months we had become quite fluid, and went to Goodna Convent after that, the nuns were horrible, used to get the cane a lot because I couldn’t spell and if you got less than 5 right out of 10, you got the cane for each one you got wrong. Meanwhile I earned lots of holy pictures because I got 10 out 10 for maths. I remember at time using the shortcut via the rail workers camp to go to Wacol railway station, something we weren’t alowwed to do, but collecting beer bottles on the way, to buy lollies or fireworks from the shop at Wacol. My father worked as a cook there for 8 yeaqrs before he opened his own cakeshop in Goodna. We were lucky fdad used to bring home all the toys out of the Cornflake packets, that we put together, we got trainsets, old cars, strange animals etc.. Is there a way to upload photos, I have a few from my Wacol days

    1. Hello Louis! When were you there? We were there from Dec.’71 to April 72. We the moved to Goodna. Our 5 years old daughter also vent to the Goodna Convent School, starting year 1 in ’72.

  4. Hi Neil,
    Just looking at some of your pics of the hostel and I realised you must have been next door neighbours to us. In the pic showing the two types of huts with the toilet block in the background we were in the hut to the right of your mum, on her left. I was 15 at the time so a bit older than you but no doubt we would have seen each other. We left in ’66 and lived in Sherwood before moving to NZ in late’66.
    So nice to see the old huts, they bring back so many fond memories for me. So many friends that have now grown old but are still young to me.
    Thanks for the memories.



  5. In that photo your mum will be looking almost directly at our hut, slightly to her right. It was the washing one I was thinking of, excitement got the better of me. I can remember running into those washing lines while running round like idiots at night, bloody hurt too, they were just at neck height when pivotted just right, the managers revenge,lol. I’m in Brisbane on holiday at the moment and was dismayed to see that all signs of the hostel are gone, just the old sewage plant left I believe. Sad in many ways, so many good memories.My mum was May Brett, my dad was Bill. He spent a lot of time travelling looking for work. Sadly they have both passed away now. I have a brother who would have been about 7 at the time, he was known as Bimbo but his real name is Tony. You may have known him. If I can recall any more I will let you know. Great to talk to a fellow P.O.M.E from Stalag Wacol. lol

  6. My family and I spent 7 months at wacol migrant centre in 1963. My late mum worked in the childcare centre till she passed away in 1970

    1. Hi Ken I was on Wacol hostel in1970 (March – October) I remember your mum so well. We always called her Miss Slater. She helped so many of the new girls. She looked after my kids when I took my driving test. What month did she die. Lovely lady
      Sheila Douglas

  7. Hi Neil

    Great to read your blog, and see the pics and comments from others about the Wacol Migrant Camp. I had forgotten about the corrugated huts, and didn’t know they were called Nissen huts. The O’Leary family, with 5 children arrived 24th October 1961 and we were there until late 1962. We occupied an entire hut, first in M Block and later in K Block closer to the canteen. There was a recession at the time, but luckily Dad too landed a job as a cook on the camp. Mum took over from another lady as the camp tobacconist. My sister and I delivered the daily newspapers to the camp residents. Just last weekend I took a nostalgic tour of the area and was pleased to see the Brisbane City Council have turned the rear of the camp into a reserve: Wacol Bushlands. I was able to walk along the road I traversed many times in bare feet to and from Darra State Primary School, more than 50 years ago! The only difference being it comes to the Remand Centre with a sign saying; “Keep Out Prison Property” and the buildings are hidden behind fences topped with razor wire. Would love more pics if you have any. Thanks

  8. Hi Neil, I’m Michael’s sister,Elizabeth,the one who used to deliver the newspapers on the camp with him. I remember balancing them all on my head as I did the round each day on M, L and J blocks and to where the administrative staff lived. I think I got the idea for balancing them on my head from a lovely Hungarian woman, Eidelweiss, who used to carry all the food for her parents, 3 sisters, a brother and herself, (from the canteen to their hut on M block) balanced on a tray on her head. How she did it, I don’t know, but she even carried billy cans in both hands, at the same time.
    I remember we arrived at the camp at night on a bus from the docks. We were taken, first of all, to the canteen where we had a lovely cup of hot chocolate and a piece of cake. We were then taken over to hut M14, later transferring to a hut nearer the canteen and the “new” washrooms. I remember Wheeties for breakfast: does anyone else? Also, really good packed lunches were provided for us school children, in brown paper bags. I can’t comment on the laundry facilities (although I’m sure I would have washed some of my clothes) but as a teenager (I was 14 when I arrived), I really enjoyed being on the camp. I remember one of the wives of a camp official, opening the wire mesh door of her hut on Easter Sunday, 1962 (just after I’d delivered their newspapers) and giving me a bunch of bronze chrysanthemums. I was thrilled.I also spent a couple of weeks or more in about November and December, 1961, stamping all the new towels and sheets with the camp logo. There were loads, of course, filling the nissen hut. The staff used to give me cream buns at morning and afternoon tea breaks. This particular nissen hut was not far from the recreation hut where we used to play ping pong and meet up with other teenagers in the evenings. I was interested in Louis’ comment about his father being a cook on the camp from 1961-9. As Michael has already mentioned, our Dad (Robin O’Leary) was a camp cook, too. I remember an Italian cook who worked with Dad as I was quite friendly with his son, Luciano.
    I hope others come across this site as I would love to read other people’s memories, too, and may even remember the people writing them.
    Thank you, Neil. I’m glad you thought of this.

    1. G’day Elizabeth

      Thanks for sharing your memories of Wacol. What an amazing place, with so many different cultures 🙂

      I’ve tried to revisit a lot of places from my childhood to try and refresh my memory. Sometimes it works. But it’s such a shame we can’t do that at Wacol, because they put a jail there. That’s why it’s so good to read other people’s accounts of their experience there.

      Best wishes.


  9. We arrived by ship (Fairsky) in 1963. There was my dad, mum, my brothers John (deceased), Nigel and sisters Elaine and Charlotte, my brother Julian was born at Wacol. (There is also Andrew and Natasha). I used to sell papers at the canteen and over in the Army camp over the highway. Attended Goodna State School and we eventually moved to Acacia Ridge and then Inala. I have so many fond memories and experiences from Wacol. I often wonder what happened o all my friends from the hostel.

    1. G’day Eugene
      Thanks for your comments.
      Sorry to hear about your brother, John.
      I remember the canteen and the Army camp across the highway.
      Happy memories 🙂

    2. Hi Eugene
      I’m sure I remember you and your family ,I’m Michael Fairhurst my step brother was called Ralph ,I can remember your mum and dad ,we lived in the hut next to you don’t know whether you remember the Bennett’s they lived close by ,we came over on the Fairsky in 1963 ,my mum and your worked together ,they worked in the factory and then at a pineapple works .I also remember your brother John and your sister too we used to play out together hope you get this message
      From Michael Fairhurst
      ps my e-mail address is

  10. i too have fond memories,we arrived from the fairstar liner in april 67..our first home and introduction to Australia..we lived on site for six months [seemed likie ages back then] but I remember canteen meals,walking to Wacol station,or even down by the railway lines to Darra…mamy friends too but lost contact…it seemed primitive at times,and meeting the aussie insects ….what memories,

  11. my family were there about 1961—i was only 8 but i remember lots of it, the bush and avoiding the tramps on the way to the swimming pool nearby.
    a girl that used to dance as a ballerina in a large hut.
    getting the cane at the convent (for nothing!!!).
    lots of freedom that would be unheard of these days.
    some sadness—a friend died in a cave in.
    also the strong smell of ddt for the mossies!

    1. OMG! I realise your post was years ago but I was recently thinking back to Wacol camp and my friends there. The lady dancing like a ballerina was me! I taught some little girls and put on a concert to entertain the mums etc. Memories!! So many years ago.

  12. My family arrived to Wacol on the 20th January 1983. We had no english and was hard for my parents. On the other hand, although not easy, we kids found that the Community Centre ran within the grounds, and the nature that surrounded us, gave us a way to escape reality, play and grow up.

    I have good memories of this place, although I hated it for what it was, the destination after leaving my home.

  13. stayed about a year.
    then we moved to inala.
    after a year there dad moved us to new zealand where we have all remained.

  14. I arrived with my parents and two siblings in December 1976 from Germany. It was very hot and steamy. We were placed in a wooden hut. The nights in that hut felt very uncomfortable in those huts. We met another German Family and we are still friends with them. Except for a little discomfort of sleeping in those huts we really enjoyed the food. One night when we were at dinner, plates were stacked up so high that the whole stack collapsed, leaving nothing but broken plates and cutlery on the floor. After a couple of days in Wacol Immigration Hostel we were placed in a Commonwealth Housing Estate in Wooloowin.

    1. Hi Elke
      It’s amazing what we remember as kids.
      I’ll bet you never tried to stack dishes too high after that episode 🙂
      Did your family stay in Brisbane?

    2. Hallo, ich heiße Veronika und wir (Eltern und Bruder sind im September 1971 von Deutschland nach Australien ausgewandert und kamen als allererstes nach Wacol. Ich war damals 11 Jahre alt und mein Bruder fast 6. Ich erinnere auch noch an das Kantine Schlange stehen um eine Tase Schwarztee mit oder ohne Milch. Auch erinnere ich mich an den Bush und die Train Station. Auch and ein große Konservendose Pinapplesaft die meine Eltern immer kauften. Der Saft wurde mit Wasser vermischt. Die Dose hatte glaub ein blaues Etikett/ Golden Circle Pinapple Juice. Habe nur schöne Erinnerungen an Australien. Wir waren nut kurz in Wacol, wir kamen dann in ein voll eingerichtetes Apartment in Woolloowin in der Hunter Street. Nach 6 Monaten kauften sich meine Eltern ein Haus und wir zogen weg. Leider gingen wir 1977 zurück nach Deutschland. Mein Herz gehört aber heute noch Australien. Tolle Seite. Es sind wunderschöne Erinnerungen an eine für mich richtig schöne Zeit.

  15. We arrived from Maastricht Holland in 1961 and arrived on the 16/Jan/1961.My mum and dad had 9 kids and we found it not so good but we did ok soon.One thing was the food it was shocking but that’s all we had and sometimes my friend and me boiled eggs in a washing machine in the laundry and that was because he stole the eggs from his mother that kept chooks but she could not keep them but she did.We were there for 12 months before mum and dad rented a house in West End.I didn’t mind living in the camp but my mum hated the food so we had to get out.I just wonder does anyone know us?Our name is Janssens.Hope someone knows.Thank you

  16. I arrived by plane on my own as a 12 year old in 1967 to join my Dad Frank the builder..some may remember him as he had a bad car crash and was in a plaster cast from his waste that covered his head after he broke his neck in a crash in Inala, he still worked and looked like an egg..we lived at C27 and i built a boat outside the hut as I was chucked out of Oxley state high..I had a brother bernie who was very popular and returned to england on the ill fated Fairsea whos captain shot himself and the boilers blew up leaving bern and the others adrift..(the good old days eh)..we stayed in c27 for just over 2 years but returned as there was not enough medical insurance but we built a big brick house out side bribane…I remember the bake bean sandwiches in brown bags with a piece of neoplitan cake and an orange..does any one remember Sam the old night watch man with his ex service revolver..or my once sweet heart marilyn dregmans in the shop..when we were there they put sinks in the huts with running does seem a shame its all gone now and all the people I new that wacol love it or hate it, it was a part of the aussie adventure that pwrsonally as a kid i loved..

    1. Hi Steve

      We arrived at Wacol in September 1967. Started off in hut B12 and then to the “very modern” besser block D4. Definitely remember the name Marilyn Dregmans. Think we were at the hostel for 12-18 months. The packed lunches still haunt me….obviously used some sort of butter substitute as it so white. I was 11 at the time and spent a year at Goodna State School before Oxley High. Definitely was an adventure for us kids. I was wondering if you recall an accident at the Wacol railway station around that time where a young boy from the hostel was killed. Can’t find anything on the internet about it but seems such a strong memory to me.

      1. We arrived at Wacol hostel in december 1964, Mum, Dad, three brothers and myself. – Mansons – Mum worked in the kitchen,
        we stayed 2 years beforre buying at Goodna.. I remember the boy who was killed,he was in my grade in school. very sad.
        He walked behind a train and didnt see the other one coming the other way. Should have walked over the pedestrian bridge

      2. Hi Angela, This IS Marilyn Dregmans now Papinczak. Just been reading these blogs about the Wacol Hostel and it certainly has brought back some memories. I do remember the little boy that was killed by a train running over him. So so tragic. I believe he was the eldest son of 3 kids. Only weeks later his younger brother put a scissors through his eyeball. I believe the family returned home to England which I totally get. Such a tragedy. So nice to read these stories of life at the hostel. I do feel so sorry now that I’m older how you guys lived with no flyscreens, very primitive conditions for sure.

        1. Hi Marilyn

          Great to hear from you. I have tried to find anything on the internet about the accident but nothing !! Thought I was imagining it, as you get older the memories fade but I still vividly recall people in the dining room wondering where he had got to and then my mother sat me down and explained what had happened. I sat next to him at school so was very sad ( I have a school photo with us in it), I do remember his brother stabbing himself with the scissors. Was very basic at the hostel but quite an adventure as a kid – don’t know if my parents felt the same way.

          1. Hi Angela..i remember the boy being killed on the track by wacol station..i used to get thr train from wacol to oxley school and all us kids were warned not to run across the tracks in front of stationary trains…

    2. Hi Steve, This is Marilyn Dregmans (Papinczak) now. Just wondering who you are as I knew 2 Steves. Did you come from Birmingham by any chance?

      1. Hya Marilyn, wow a steve the cockney boy from dad was frank the builder who broke his neck in a car crash and walked around in a body cast..we lived in c27 would love to chat with you..been a long on face book and live in london..i hope we can link up..

        1. Marilyn i cant post my email but maybe my whats app number is uk code then 07795 460540

  17. My parents and I were accommodated here in the early 1950,s.I am only vaguely aware of my experiences here as I was 3 years of age.

  18. Hi Steve Trude.
    It was an interesting time for all of us.
    I think you were the boy I met at Wacol Hostel.
    Yes if it was you, I remember us arriving in 1969 and there was a boy building a boat.
    I made some comment that did not come across to you and you were slightly defensive about your
    boat building.
    I think it was the language barrier that caused it, me being from holland, and I think you were english.
    Anyway Thinking back, I thought at the time you did a great job, considering you had no work shop to work in.
    I would like to correspond with you and talk about those time/s etc.
    I am married, have three grown up daughters and live on the sunshine coast.
    Email address

  19. Hi Steve Trude.
    It was an interesting time for all of us.
    I think you were the boy I met at Wacol Hostel.
    Yes if it was you, I remember us arriving in 1969 and there was a boy building a boat.
    I made some comment that did not come across to you and you were slightly defensive about your
    boat building.
    I think it was the language barrier that caused it, me being from holland, and I think you were english.
    Anyway Thinking back, I thought at the time you did a great job, considering you had no work shop to work in.
    I would like to correspond with you and talk about those time/s etc.
    I am married, have three grown up daughters and live on the sunshine coast.
    Email address

    1. Hi there Gary! I was 6 years old in Wacol Hostel. I remember your family so well. Especially Edith, Beppie and Margeret. She would come to our home in Inala with Gerard her husband and baby Claudette. It was always a lovely time at your home in Ipswich

      1. Hi Elisabeth Hoogeveen.
        I came across your reply. having been casually looking back on this site.
        ‘I think I have the right face in thoughts, with you always smiling.
        I am at my daughters place at the moment and if you want to contact me directly my Email address is
        with regards and best wishes Gary Tangeman.
        Looking forwards to hear from you and your family again.

    2. Hi Gary, sorry if i sounded defensive or even rude back then..i came from a tough part of london and maybe that moulded my attitude..did you know willhem wieshma from friesland or Ashwin van tongren he was dutch indonesian..the boat i made sailed and my dad made me build it because i would not go to school..i dont know if were allowed but im on facebook and now live in london again..

  20. Hi there. wow you all have such amazing memories. I was a worker at Wacol in late 1980’s when the Vietnamese refugees where there. Then they started coming form South America.
    Do any of you know any people who would have been there then? I’m writing a short story and some facts would be handy.

    1. Hi Cate, we lived at The Wacol Migrant Centre, from June 1980 – June 1981. I worked as a cleaner and also sometimes in the nursery, so the refugees could attend English classes. We had twins a boy and a girl aged 23 months. I’m not sure if you can remember us living at the migrant centre. We were the only couple at the time with twins.
      After leaving the migrant centre, we lived in Brisbane for 5 years, then moved to the Northern Territory for 26.5 years, we now reside in Perth.
      Moira & Robin Baatjes

  21. Now nearly 5 years later after leaving the first comment on your site. Mum and Dad have passed on Mum in 2007 at 83 and Dad in March last year age 89. Their 5 kids are doing well. I remember taking the shortcut, not allowed by my parent through the railway workers camp and picking up beer bottles that I used to cash in for a 1/2 penny, used to get quite a few, which I bought sweets or fireworks at the shops near the railway station. Caught the train to Goodna to go to the Catholic School (St Francis I Think) Used to also sometimes walk to Darra using the shortcut through the migrant camp, there was a back entrance gate, which used to also go past some tin shanty type huts where some aboriginals used to live. Does anyone remember those??? I can remember playing war games and we built our own huts, ours was dug out of the ground like trenches and tin placed over the top for a roof. Other nationalities children had their own huts. My baby brother 2 years old still bares the scar on his forehead from one of the battles when he was hit in the head with a rock, needed stitches. Found this picture in my dads stuff from when we arrived in Australia, was in the Courier Mail, which recorded our arrival and on the way to Wacol Hostel, hope it works

    1. I remember the back gate to darra and the old shacks with piles of stubby beer bottles and a couple of boys plucked up enough courage to go to the huts despite being told swagger men lived there snd they will shoot you with blunderbusses…we didnt get shot and live to tell the tale..

  22. Hi Louis.
    I’m sorry to here the bad news.
    That’s fascinating about the aboriginal camp.
    The Facebook photo doesn’t work because the privacy isn’t set to public. If you email it to me I’ll share the photo here. (mail at neilennis dot com)

    1. My family lived on the aboriginal side in the 80s. I have a few good memories from then. I would have been around 4 or 5 because I remember being to small to line up for lunch before getting on the school bus.

  23. Hi There,
    My parents Ray and June Musgrove brought my brother and i from England by plane in 1979, i was 4 at the time my brother was 7. I remember the heat, as we arrived in November of that year. We were placed into a wooden hut. I remember the canteen. I also remember we must have been there for a couple of years as they moved us from the hut to a block of brick units, which was so much better. We then moved to Inala. I would love to find out if anyone was in the camp at the same time, and if they knew my parents? As my parents passed away when i was young, not much memories as i was so young.

  24. We came to Wacol in 1961 immigrating to Australia from England on the Strathnaver as 10 pound poms. It was the ships last voyage after which the ship was scrapped. Our journey over was not the best as our cabins where way down in the hold and it was just so.. hot. On arrival in Brisbane we likened Warcol to a concentration camp made of corrugated iron after leaving our lovely new Council house in South East London it was a backward step. Many of my friends and their families were terribly unhappy at Warcol a few went directly back to England using all they had to get back home. My family and I only stayed a couple of weeks at Warcol as we had the money to rent a house in Fairfield. I was the only one working to bring in some money at the time I was 18 years old. My dad was a bricklayer but found a job in an abattoir all he could get. My mum found a job in a rag factory ripping up rags. We felt we had been brought out to Australia under force pretences really as it was nothing like what was portrait at Australia House London. As a family we never settled in Australia and after saving up for two years so not to pay the government back! we saved enough to make another new life in New Zealand where we all live now.

  25. Hi Louis Toorenburg,

    I remember the old tin huts at the back entrance to Wacol just set back a bit in the bush from the path which I believe went to Darra, there were others on the otherside of the railway tracks with piles of stubby beer bottles out and a couple of boys from the Hostel plucked up the courage to approach the ones over the railway tracks as we believed the old swagger men who lived there had blunderbusses and would shoot us…We stayed a while and spoke to one of them who was shaving and getting ready to go into Brisbane he told us they were old railway workers huts…(we never got shot)

  26. Dear any former Wacol resident.
    I came to Australia as an emigrant in the Autumn of 1979 and was staying in Wacol emigration center .
    I am in search of following previous emigrant who were there at the same time as me hence if anyone have any idea as to where and how I can get in contact and/or find them it would be very much appreciated. The people are as following
    1. Dung Thi Tuyet Lee (Could be spelled wrong) she was Vietnamese and lived there with her son who at time was 5-8 years old .
    2. Any Danish people living there at the time.
    Bent Elkaer Korsgaard

  27. Dear Elaine

    I was there at the time of you and your family, sorry for your loss and unfortunately do not recall them (You) picture may juggle my mind, so is you have and want to share I would be happy to have a look, but must say the chances are slim

  28. Neil i have found some good photos of wacol and people on the hostel (1968 -70) how do i attach…

  29. Hi Neil,

    My twin brother sent me this link, today, of your blog, which I will read later; as we ourselves mark our 50th anniversary of arriving in Australia on the 24th March 1968 – 50 years today on 24th March 2018. In the meantime, I wrote a little poem about our family’s arrival and what has eventuated since our arrival to Australia and our first impressions of when we arrived at the Wacol hostel… I look forward to reading your blog soon.

    Kind regards

  30. I came to Wacol in early 1950, being transpported there from the camp at Greta in NSW. I arrived in Australia on the Fairsea, disembarking at Newcastle and sent to Greta in 1949. I wonder whether there are people who came at the same time and also being at both camps.

  31. Hey, my family arrived in 1969, my mum English and dad Lebanese, my brother was 3, Marcus and my mums water broke on the side of the road and a man helped her, I’m suzy, the baby. Haha, if anyone has photos of that time, I’d love to see them.

    1. 16-2-2019
      HI Susy and family.
      Can you tell me what part of the year this had eventuated. I remember my father helping a family get into the hostel , who had an very old type of car, desperate to stay somewhere. they had completed a long trip and they were absolutely desperate and down on their luck.My parents approached the Hostel staff and petitioned to help this family, which was successful. I remember a knock on the door one night, whereby the man we helped had brought over a gift for my parents as a thank you for helping. let me know if you can remember what part of the year this was and describe the car or which seemed to be a type of ute from the 1930’s I am not sure. Regards Gary Tangeman.

      P.S. I wonder sometimes what happened to this family and how they are today.

      1. Hi Elisabeth Hoogeveen.
        I came across your reply. having been casually looking back on this site.
        ‘I think I have the right face in thoughts, with you always smiling.
        I am at my daughters place at the moment and if you want to contact me directly my Email address is
        with regards and best wishes Gary Tangeman.
        Looking forwards to hear from you and your family again.

  32. My family and I came to Australia on the HMS Ellanor in 1967/68 I was 5 or 6 at the time.I remember stopping at the Wacol migrant hostel for several weeks. I remember the huts and I know my Mum hated it but at such a young age I didn’t really take that on board. I loved it as there were lots of children to play with and sunshine two things that were in short supply for me in the UK. I remember that there was an army barracks opposite . My Dad was a builder and he went out to work everyday. We eventually got a house that was on stilts in Inala, which was very exciting to us.

  33. We arrived in September of 1969 from Ohio having traveled on the P&O Liner “Orsova”. My father told us not to unpack because we would be leaving in a few days. We stayed 7 weeks and enrolled at Oxley State School. Ended up buying a home in Sunnybank south of Brisbane. Sadly we returned to States in 1971.
    Our time at Wacol was special, in a hut with 4 children 4, 9, 12 and 14. I remember having school lunches with chocolate sprinkles and butter and breakfasts with hot milk and wheatabix. Truly an experience. Mostly British but I remember a family from Albania and twins from Argentina.

  34. I arrived at Wacol in August 1974, being single I was accommodated in a little hut with two beds, the other bed was occupied by a guy from the Baltic states, I think.
    Singles were allowed to stay for 3 months, families 6 months. We ate at the canteen and there was an ablution block for men and other for women.
    I got my first job after being in Australia for 10 days, I remember walking to Wacol train station each morning to go to work on the docks.
    I moved out after 10 weeks to share a flat with two other guys I met at the hostel.
    My first experience was to go to the post office and sending a letter to my family saying I was OK, I also bought a can of Coke, never seen one before!
    After a couple of years in Brisbane I moved to Melbourne to work & study

    1. Omar Ceballos
      I arrived at the hostels on the 10 of July 1974 with a group of Colombians from Medellin and Armenia I was there for three months and then moved to an apartment in New Farm with my friend Jaime Marulanda. I left Brisbane for Sydney in January 76.Do you remember any one from this time?

      1. hi Omar,
        I arrived at Wacol the 8th of August 1974, we boarded a charter plane from Lima, Peru with some Argentinians; Peruvians and Colombians but mainly Chileans refugees of the Pinochet dictatorship.
        Never been back, I understand it’s a prison now.
        I don’t remember names, this was almost 50 years ago. I’ll be good to have a reunion somewhere but we live in different parts of this beautiful country.

  35. Hi Neil,
    I’m 65 and currently typing up memories of my life and found your blog whilst looking for info about the Wacol Migrant Hostel. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments.
    I arrived at the hostel as a 15 year old with my parents and nearly 14 yr old brother in October 1969. We were assisted migrants (Ten Pound Poms – there’s a great book with that title if anyone is interested in reading it) from Yorkshire and travelled on the Fairstar. Mum & Dad both got jobs quickly. Dad was a piano tuner and technician and mum a secretary. We stayed at the hostel for 6 months. Our Bedford Dormobile (campervan) arrived from England whilst we were living at the hostel and we would escape to the King’s Beach (Caloundra) campsite on many weekends. The kitchen staff would pack us a picnic for Saturday’s lunch. My memories are mainly of attending Oxley State High School and not the hostel. However, I do remember being in a timber army hut for the first couple of months of our stay then moving to D block made from Besser blocks. An aunt, uncle and 3 cousins arrived in January 1970 and were accommodated in D block almost immediately. They moved to Redcliffe after a couple of months. My auntie was a few weeks pregnant when they arrived. After 6 months our family moved to a rental house at Yeronga. John and I caught the rail motor from Yeronga to Corinda then the train to Oxley. It was a bit tedious but meant we didn’t have to change schools when we had just made friends there. Over the years, all my family and the aunt, uncle and cousins have gone back to England but I’ve stayed and still live in Brisbane.

    1. G’day Lindy
      I went to Oxley High as well – but started in 1974 after you had already left.
      Ahhh D-Block. “That were luxury” to quote another Yorkshire man. 🙂 It hadn’t been built when we were there.
      I’m glad you decided to stay – I reckon Mum and Dad’s decision to migrate here in the 1960’s was better than winning the lottery – so glad they did it.

  36. Hi everyone.
    Seems like I’m a relative newcomer compared to some of the others. Very interesting and I’m glad they were happy times for all mostly.
    My family must’ve been the last of the people to stay. We came to Wacol in July 1983 from Hong Kong. The night we arrived I remember going past the XXXX brewery and seeing the flashing lights on Milton Rd as we headed west. I was almost 5 and my brother was 2 years old and didn’t know a word of English. I remember not knowing what was going on and lots of tall white people. My mum had worked in England for many years and spoke English easily so we all seemed OK. The family we shared the hut with was from South America and they had a boy I played with who was my age. We couldn’t talk but we played cars outside the laundry block.
    Occasionally we would walk to Wacol train station to go to the city. That was great fun. Was it a long walk? As a 5 year old it felt like forever.
    Towards the end we moved into some brick units, it felt newer and we had our own bathroom and kitchen. We eventually moved into a unit a block flats at Taringa when my mum found a job nursing at Wesley hospital.
    I wish I was older so I could remember more. It seemed so exciting and new back then. What a great country we have here!

    1. G’day Alex
      Thanks for sharing.
      I remember walking to Wacol Railway Station from the hostel when I was 3 years old, and agree with your description – it was a long way for small legs 🙂

  37. Hi just interested to know if this is where most of the new immigrants from the United Kingdom ended up as my parents arrived in Brisbane in 66/67 on either the Fairsea/Fairsky or Fairstar and spoke of the migrant hostel. Sadly my father has now left us and my mother suffers with dementia so no one left to ask.

    1. Hi David
      Yes, they were probably at Wacol. The hostel was located where the correctional centre is today.
      There was a small facility at “Yungaba” under the Story Briddge, but most people moved from there to Wacol after a few days unless they had arranged their own accommodation.

  38. We arrived at the hostel in July 1971, our hut was near the canteen, I got a job in the canteen, and the rent was taken out of my wages, we made a lot of friends on the hostel, we have since moved back to the UK, but still in touch with some of the friends we made .

  39. Growing as a teenager we can remember seeing one side non indigenous people the other side aboriginals from many different communities living at the old Wacol hostel (army barracks) because our step mother worked in the kitchen back then as we lived in Inala 1974 coming from Redhill /Springhill

  40. Hi. We arrived in Wacol late 1961.
    I don’t remember too much – we were a Dutch family from Zeeland. We came in ‘de Groote Beer’. Then trained it from Sydney.
    I was 9 years old. My dad was a minister and mum a music teacher. I had 4 siblings ranging from 14yo to 3 yo.
    I can remember going to school there. I couldn’t speak a word of English. The English kids had a lot of fun taking our school books etc as we had no idea how to tell the teacher. I had long plaits and someone behind me kept pulling them.
    I must’ve made some friends there as I can remember fun times with all the freedom – and catching the train to Brisbane.
    I loved seeing the Cicadas. So much to learn in our new environment.
    We weren’t there long as far as I can remember and moved to Bowen where our dad had a position as minister in the Presbyterian church. That was a whole new experience trying to learn the language without any extra help. Bit different nowadays!
    Memories came back today as my son attended a Tuvalu church at Darra and he said it was the Wacol migrant dormitory. Pauline

  41. Yery interesting reading about people staying at the Wacol Migration Camp. My wife and her parents stanislav and Kveta SIMA. They stayed at the Bathurst Migration Camp when they arrived in Australia . They were transferred to the WACOL camp soon after. Her father was the chief cook at Wacol until they left the camp in the mid 1950s

  42. i immigrated to Australia with my family back in July 31st 1982 from Scotland I was seven at the time and I remember the rickety old bus that drove us from Brisbane airport to Wacol Hostel there was another hostel at Kangaroo Point but we were taken to Wacol it was a bit of shock to the system not knowing what to expect arriving into another country call it naive you could say being vulnerable lost but I will never forget my Mother’s expression she was horrified to see our Dwelling she was angry upset and homesick she wanted to go back to Scotland.
    I remember there was a Lady that lived next door and every night there would be a different man turn up and you could hear everything meaning my mum would call her the lady of the night! I cannot remember her nationality
    I remember going to the canteen for breakfast and we got Rice Krispies drowned in milk the food was terrible
    My Mother wanted to do her washing and she went down to the laundry and she was looking for a stopper to put in the sink we call them stoppers in Scotland it is called plugs here
    She was getting frustrated as she couldn’t find one and she was asking the other ladies there that were veitnamese that did not speak a word of English, we ended up going to the shops to get one at the time we did not have a car so we walk to Wacol Station to catch the old steam train to Brisbane and yes it was abit of a walk
    She did eventually get a stopper but she would not leave it in the Laundry she kept in the hut as she didn’t want it to get pinched lol
    It was hard at the start as we did not know anyone there but we did end up meeting in with other families Scottish, Irish and English
    My Dad had a job to go when we arrived here
    He started at Dennings at Acacai Ridge as a Coach Builder we ended leaving there I think after 2 weeks we had got approved for a house at Highgate Hill, I resided at West End Primary and my Brother went to Brisbane state high
    My mother got a job in the old SGIO building as a Tea lady then left there to do Daycare for a couple who were both School Teachers
    I did have a hard time at West end as the kids did not like me as I still spoke with a Scottish accent and they could not understand me and would say we don’t like you you can speak properly I had indigenous friend called Sarah who befriended me and she was a lovely girl and then I became friends with a Greek girl called Irene and another girl from Japan in actual fact the Aussies were probably the worst towards me , it took me a wee while to settle in and for the other kids to come around to me and they did,
    There is a Actual book called Wacol Remembered my mother went to the book launch and got a copy of the book she actually has a write up in the book of her own personal experience with many more personal experiences from other people who resided at the Wacol hostel.
    Interesting Read
    I think this site is Brilliant to hear of other people stories and experiences it brings back so many memories, I am glad to have found this website
    Thankyou for everyone that has shared their own story.

  43. We arrived in Sydney in June, 1973 on board the Galileo, having departed from cape Town.
    We were accommodated at a migrant hostel in Coogee f(rom memory), and soon headed up to Brisbane, driving the tiny Toyota Corona we shipped over with us.
    The adventure from South Africa had been fun but reality hit when we arrived at Wacol. I was 11 years-old, and like many other families, i can only recall the crying and misery my mum endured.
    Like other contributors to this page, leaving a comfortable existence (in hindsight) to be shoved into a hot, or cold, Nissen hut was a big shock and took a while to digest, if at all.
    I recall the primary school which was very close to the hostel where I found it hard to settle in. I think it was Darra State school?
    We didn’t stay too long and ended up in a flat in Wooloowin and I was enrolled at Eagle Junction primary school.
    We immigrants, with South African or English accents were ostracized big time and it was damn awful. We all hated Brisbane – the heat, the general look of it etc.
    We packed everything up, dad bought a trailer and bravely crossed the then limestone Nullarbor to Perth where we moved into the Graylands Migrant Hostel.
    It was the best thing my parents did and my sister and I owe them everything for the decisions they made all those years ago.
    Having just retired from teaching this year I intend to write about my childhood memories and seeing this site today has given me many reminders of Wacol which I can use going forward.
    Thanks for he opportunity and i would like to hear of anyone else who was there around 1973 and about their Primary school experiences as immigrants.
    Dave Brown, Perth

  44. Great reading all the memories. Our family arrived in November 1969 and went straight to Wacol. I was 7 and went to Goodna State School. My mum, dad and myself started off in a wooden hut and moved after a couple of months to the new besser brick units. A week or two after moving there was a storm and a tree fell down onto our old hut. I remember in about April 1970, there was a huge hail storm. My family had been in Brisbane at the movies and when we returned to camp, a family that had only recently moved out into their new home at Woodrige, were back at the camp as their new home had been badly damaged. We moved to Slacks Creek in May 1970 and then in January 1974 moved to Gympie where we still live.

  45. Hello Neil, Graham Wareing here. I have only just learnt of your conversations with ex Wacol Migrant Centre dwellers and am happy to share some info. Mum and Dad (Flo & Bob Wareing) brought 4 sons from Liverpool on the Fairsea to arrive at Wacol on 22/10/1960. We left the vessel in Sydney and travelled by train to STH Brisbane station, a bus ride to our new home in a wooden hut, and our journey was over. Actually it had just started. Eldest brother Derek was indentured to a bricklayer within two weeks and Dad worked as a labourer on the new Tritons building in George St. My brothers Bobby, Geoffrey and I attended Darra State School and walked each day along the backroad to school. We left in October 1961 and moved to Inala. Our small group of 6 has now become 56 and my brothers and (Mum & Dad have passed) bless Australia every day for the life it provided us. The Wacol Centre gave us the start we needed and we did the rest…..all the best. Graham

  46. Hi, I’ve just found this blog.
    My family (McVey’s) came to Wacol in 1964 from Colmslie hostel. We came to Australia on the Fairsea, together with my uncle and his family. There were six of us, Peg & Mick and Pat, Anne, Mike and Danny. Our mum worked in the cafeteria, our dad worked away a lot of the time, opencast mining. Our mum was terribly homesick so they saved up to return to England but it took until 1966. She was so happy to get back to her large extended family but dad would have preferred to stay in Australia. I went to Darra Convent then Goodna State school and Mr Stirling and Mr Reisbec were my teachers. I remember swimming in very green chlorinated pool there, really made the eyes sting. I moved to Oxley High when is first opened, brilliant school experience. We had great fun on the hostel as kids and in the school holidays we went on loads of trips. On Saturdays we went swimming at Inala or Corinda. Weekends were trips to Colleges crossing to swim& bbq. Happy times indeed.

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