The First Step

The First Step
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

The greatest journey starts with a step.

This is the form that Mum and Dad completed in order to apply to come to Australia in February 1963. They were 22 years old at the time. I wasn’t even a year old, and Mum was pregnant with my sister, Karen.

Click on the thumbnails below to see any of the 32 pages in the application.

If you were a Ten Pound Pom, you can order your own set of documents. Just go to the Australian National Archives ( and follow "record search" links.


Migrant Ships

Here is a partial list of Ships that brought immigrants to Australia between 1950 and 1971.

This list is not complete. If you have any additions, or better links, please let me know.

Achille Lauro
Angelina Lauro
Asturias (2)


Castel Felice


Ellinis (2)






New Australia
Northern Star

Otranto (2)

Southern Cross


The Wacol Migrant Hostel

P48a (Feb 66)p29ap32ap33a
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.

Yungaba May 1965

Yungaba May 1965
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

This is Sylvia (Mum), Karen and Neil (me) in the garden at Yungaba not long after we disembarked from Ellinis.

Mum’s seven months pregnant here, with Kevin.

It was around this time that Karen and I caught chicken pox.

As a 23 year old mother of 3 in a new country, Mum can be forgiven for not smiling!

Mum writes:

The next day we saw the coast of Australia it was quite an emotional experience for me. It looked absolutely awesome. We were nearly there! Out first stop was Adelaide, where we only walked around the docks for a short while. There wasn’t really a lot to see. Next stop Melbourne; there were hundreds of people waiting to greet the ship, mainly because a lot of the Greek passengers left the ship here. This was very emotional watching people waving to their families who were waiting for them. There wasn’t going to be any reception like that for us when we arrived in Brisbane.
Sydney was the last stop before Brisbane. We went ashore and caught a ferryboat to go to Taronga park zoo, unfortunately it was closed. So the only wildlife we saw that day was a mother duck with her babies waddling behind her walking across the road in front of us. That also was the day we lost photos Bruce had taken since we bought the camera. He was changing the spool of film and somehow came undone. So we have no photos of our journey, only a few that someone else had taken.

1 st May 1965 we arrived in Brisbane! There were lots of people to meet the ship, but none for us. Everyone was waving I was crying, and Bruce said just wave, pretend you can see someone”. We had actually arrived at the wheat wharf! We left the ship mid morning, and waited in a long line to have our documents checked. There were officials seated at tables in a big shed and in the corner of the shed at the back was all the grain. It was late in the afternoon when a bus arrived and took us all to Yungaba under the story bridge. There were 12 families that went to Yungaba, we were supposed to go to Wacol Hostel. However it was full, so this was just temporary whilst they made room for us. We were shown to the dining room where we were given salad bread & butter and a cup of tea. We were then shown to our accommodation. The men & boys were in a dormitory that already had single men staying there. The women and small children were shown to another dormitory on the first floor. By this time we were all very tired it had been a long and emotional day. The room had irone framed bunk beds. They all had rolled up mattresses with clean linen & pillows. We had to make these beds up before we could put the children & our selves to bed. There were no facilities to make a cup of tea, in the bathroom there was a wash hand basin 2 toilets & 2 showers. It was about 7 pm some of the men came to the dorm to sit with their wives and children before retiring. There was a large table at the end of the room with a few chairs. We were told later by the matron that men were not allowed to be there! This whole situation was not good. We had all been through such a lot to get here, everyone was quite upset. Still tomorrow was another day. We had arrived on May Day holiday weekend so a lot of places were closed. Neil and Karen were both ill with chicken pox, most of the children had it. It was very hard to look after sick children in those conditions. We had to let Karen stay in hospital for about a week because I was unable to give her the proper care she needed. Because of our situation we were moved to another room, which was in fact a cubicle! Everyone was complaining and not very happy. Bruce was the only one of the men that went and found a job after 3 days. It was at Paul’s milk factory.

I hope you don’t mind me disagreeing, Mum, but I think we might have gone to Fremantle first like most of the other ships. Adelaide would have probably been the second stop.

Here’s some more photos. Just click on the thumbnail for a larger copy. Have a look at the last one which we took last week, compared with the same view in 1965, 43 years earlier.
Yungaba May 1965 #1Yungaba May 1965 #2Yungaba May 1965 #3Yungaba May 1965 #4Yungaba May 1965 #5Yungaba May 1965 #6Yungaba May 1965 #8Yungaba and Gardens

Acropolis 1965

Acropolis 1965
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

Early April 1965. Sylvia (Mum), Bruce (Dad), Karen and Neil (me).

Ellinis stopped in Piraeus, Greece on her way from Southampton to Brisbane.

Dad took his young family to see the ancient Greek ruins.

Mum writes:

We stopped at a few Ports. Piraeus, we visited the Acropolis which was amazing. It was the first time I had tasted Calamari. We then travelled through the Suez Canal, it was so hot. Some small boats came along side the ship, Bruce said they were called “bum boats”. The men that paddled these boats were Egyptians who were trying to sell their wares to the passengers. They would call up “hey Mactavish” they called everyone by Scottish names. The next stop was Port Said where we walked around the docks for a short while; Bruce was asked if he wanted to buy a wife! Of course he declined, showing me in all my glory along with two children! We made a quick retreat and returned to the ship. The next port was Aden, we stopped there for a few hours. This was very interesting; we visited the markets and also bought a camera. Most of the time travelling to these different places we were just amazed at all the different sights.

When we left Aden we were at sea for about 1 week, it was at the end of this week that Neil & I saw the dolphins! He was very excited but wasn’t too sure what they were.

Incidentally, once of my earliest childhood memories is looking over the side of the ship, seeing people coming alongside in small boats to sell things. Someone would pass a container down on a rope, the people in the boats would put merchandise in it, and the passengers would take what they wanted and leave money in the container.

When mum mentions Port Said above, I think it was actually Suez. Port Said is at the start of the Suez canal when you’re heading south, and Suez is at the southern end. That bit of knowledge might come in handy if anyone is in the market for buying an Egyptian wife 🙂