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Hostel Stories - Migrant Lives Exhibition at Migration Museum

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There were no backpackers in these hostels
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Hostel Stories - Migrant Lives Exhibition at the Migration Museum


Hostel Stories - Migrant Lives is a new free exhibition at the Migration Museum in Adelaide. It recounts the experiences of people who came to make a new home in Australia after the Second World War. Bringing to life the many memories buried for up to fifty years by our migrants, it tells of the hard times that they endured to become "one of us".

It's a moving display, as it's largely built from the personal memories, photos and other mementoes of those who survive. A joint project between the Migration Museum and the University of Adelaide, the Hostel Stories - Migrant Lives project team had to first locate some of the tens of thousands of people who had passed through the hostel system between the 1940's and 1990's.

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Minister Chloe Fox Opens the Exhibition at the Migration Museum


Oral history, documentation and other information was then collected at special events held during the 2013 About Time History Festival , and this was collated with supporting photos to produce stories of hostel life. They have even reconstructed the interior of a hostel for the display. For many of the survivors who attended the recent opening of this exhibition it was a very moving experience to encounter such reminders of an age long gone.

Post war migrants were a very disparate group. While the government initially tried to attract migrants from England after the war, they were forced to take some of the huge number of displaced people living in refugee camps across Europe to achieve their population targets. For many years the White Australia policy prevented migration from Asia and Africa until it was changed in the early 1970's.

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A Touch Screen Lets You Search for Information


On arrival in Australia migrants were housed in government hostels. These were not designed to be comfortable as the government did not want people to remain there. Conditions were very basic - many hostels used Nissen huts for accommodation, which were very hot in summer and cold in winter. A canteen provided the basic needs for hostel residents.

Many of the migrants worked in the big factories common at the time - Holden and Chrysler, Philips at Hendon, and the various white goods manufacturers such as Kelvinators. The work was tedious, the hours were long, pay was not generous, but with pure hard work these families became successful and accepted in our society.

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Use a Smartphone to Scan the QR Codes and Learn More


Visit the free Migration Museum and explore the Hostel Stories - Migrant Lives displays - it's a tale that has never been told before about an important period in the history of our state, when migrants made a real contribution to the growth of South Australia.

For much more background about hostels in South Australia, see here. More details about the Hostel Stories - Migrant Lives exhibition are here, or follow the Migration Museum on Facebook for updates.

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The Last Remaining Building from the Glenelg Migrant Hostel


The City of Charles Sturt has also dedicated an attractive park on the site of the former Finsbury Migrant Hostel to the memory of former residents and staff. It is a wonderful place to visit, with lots of interpretive displays.
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Why? Some migrants were boat people
When: Monday-Friday: 10am-5pm Weekends and Public Holidays: 1pm-5pm
Phone: (08) 8207 7580
Where: 82 Kintore Avenue, Australia, 5001
Cost: Free
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