Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel: Huts 201, 204 and 210 | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel: Huts 201, 204 and 210

Item details

Name of item: Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel: Huts 201, 204 and 210
Other name/s: Balgownie Migrant Workers' Hostel; Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel; University of Wollongong Campus East; Science Centre; Nissen & Quonset Huts Wollongong
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transient Accommodation
Category: Migrant Hostel
Location: Lat: -34.3973851551 Long: 150.8996264640
Primary address: Squires Way, Fairy Meadow, NSW 2519
Local govt. area: Wollongong City
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Illawarra
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT200 DP1127540
LOT2 DP1172135


Northern boundary is 1 metre north of Building 210, western boundary is 1 metre west of Building 204, eastern boundary is 3 metres west of Building 201 and southern boundary is edge of access road.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Squires WayFairy MeadowWollongong City  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Nissen hut (building 204) and the two Quonset huts (buildings 201 and 210) have historical significance as physical evidence of the Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel that was constructed at Fairy Meadow in 1950 and 1951 (and in use until 1982) as part of an Australia-wide post-World War II immigration program. This immigration program had wide ranging impacts upon the development and growth of Wollongong. The two Nissen huts and one Quonset are locally rare, as other buildings of the period have not survived at the other Wollongong migrant hostel sites set up at that time (in Unanderra and Berkeley). They are also rare on a Statewide basis as surviving Nissen and Quonset huts adapted for use at a former New South Wales migrant hostel site.

These structures have an historical association with author Mary Rose Liverani and with the community of migrants who started their Australian life at the hostel before moving on to become influential in the economic and cultural life of Wollongong.

The buildings have some technical significance relating to the adaptation of Nissen and Quonset huts which have been modified for use at a migrant hostel location.

The buildings and their location have social significance due to the community of past residents and their descendants who have strong emotional ties to the site and still live in the Wollongong district.
Date significance updated: 25 Oct 06
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Unknown (Original Nissen Hut designed by Lieutenant Colonel Peter Norman Nissen)
Builder/Maker: Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd
Construction years: 1950-1951
Physical description: Nissen Huts and Quonset Huts
Building 201 - Former Migrant Hostel Kitchen/Dining Room, then a university science centre and currently conserved, refurbished and used as a child care facility. The building has three parts: a single storey weatherboard clad kitchen area with clerestory ventilation; a 100ft. x 41ft. Quonset hut with curved corrugated steel roof/walls; a gable roofed corrugated steel clad extension
Building 204 - Former Migrant hostel Laundry Exchange, next the university library/ bookstore and now conserved and ready for occupation by unspecified university services. The building has two parts. The western section is a 25 ft x 43 ft Nissen hut. The eastern section c.1980 concrete block and metal deck structure.
Building 210 - Former Migrant Hostel staff residence, now conserved, refurbished and awaiting occupation by unspecified university services. This is a 21ft. x 53 ft. Quonset hut.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The condition of the buildings is excellent, following thorough conservation carried out in 2004/5. The larger Quonset hut (building 201) is in use as a childcare facility. Buildings 204 and 210 are ready for occupation by University of Wollongong services. Buildings 204 and 210 have been moved from their former flood-prone location to a raised berm near building 201. Improved site drainage protects building 201 from all but one-in-one-hundred-year flooding.
There is little archaeological potential however there is substantial documentary evidence available, and former residents of the hostel still around to be able to tell the story of the site without the need for archaeological work.
Date condition updated:14 Sep 06
Modifications and dates: Since closure of the Hostel, in 1982, the buildings had been adapted, some repeatedly, for use by the University of Wollongong. All three buildings were conseverd in 2005. The larger Quonset hut (building 201) is in use as a childcare facility. Buildings 204 and 210 are ready for occupation by University of Wollongong services. In 2005, buildings 204 and 210 were moved from their former flood-prone location to a raised berm immediately to the west of building 201. The berm also protects building 210 from flooding on its western side while improved site drainage to the north and east protects it from all but one-in-one-hundred-year flooding.


Historical notes: The buildings numbered 201, 204, and 210 are remnants of the Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel. The Hostel was constructed in late 1950 and 1951 as a migrant workers hostel to meet the demand for housing created by a Commonwealth government policy for increased immigration.
At the same time around the rest of the state there were numerous other hostels built to meet the demands brought about by the immigration policy.
The Balgownie Migrant Hostel was built by Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd, the contract being let in October 1950 and occupied in December 1951. The hostel was later renamed Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel and continued operation until 1982.
The property was purchased by the University of Wollongong for student accommodation in June 1987. About 1989 the building known as 201 a former dining hall was converted for use as the Science Centre.
The first Nissen Hut was designed by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel Peter Norman Nissen in 1916. In WWII the Nissen Hut design was modified and extensively used in military activities.

The British Nissen Hut was copied by Americans in the Quonset hut and evolved to become quite different by the end of WWII.

The buildings numbered 201, 204 and 210 are remnants of the hostel completed in 1951. They were part of a large complex of huts divided into blocks around common dining room and laundry buildings.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Migration-Activities and processes associated with the resettling of people from one place to another (international, interstate, intrastate) and the impacts of such movements Developing Italian settlements-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Accommodating migrants in hostels and camps-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
These buildings are the only physical evidence on site of the former Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel as built in 1951. The pattern of migration after WWII is clearly evidenced by these buildings. The history of the development of Australia and particularly Wollongong was heavily influenced by migration. The evidence of migration at this period is rare. Nissen and Quonset huts were commonly used at hostel sites throughout NSW however there are very few examples surviving today.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The subject site has been the subject of a number of works of literature. Notably 'the Winter Sparrows' by Mary Rose Liverani who documents her own experiences of growing up at the hostel. There is a significant community surviving today who have very strong connection with the former hostel.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Nissen and Quonset huts have some technical interest as examples of World War ii period prefabricated buildings which have been adapted for migrant hostel use. These buildings are the only surviving landmarks of the former Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Wollongong community has a large number of people who were post-war migrants or are descended from post war migrants. This community has demonstrated esteem for these buildings through groups such as the Migration Heritage Project.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Nissen and Quonset huts are good examples of prefabricated post World War II buildings which have been adapted for uses such as accommodation, laundry, dining and administration at a migrant hostel.
SHR Criteria f)
The buildings are the only surviving evidence of a migrant hostel in the local area. They are also rare at a state level as only known surviving Nissen and Quonset huts at a migrant hostel site.
SHR Criteria g)
Buildings 201, 204 and 210 are relatively intact examples of Nissen and Quonset huts previously used as a migrant hostel. They exemplify the era of Government sponsored post-war migration to Australia and the provisions for implementation of that policy. As landmarks these structures are held in high esteem by the community, particularly by the descendants of the migrants themselves, many of whom continue to live in the area.
Integrity/Intactness: The huts are reasonably intact
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0176728 Aug 09 1174899

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenClive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners2002Campus East Site, University of Wollongong, Nissen Huts Assessment of Significance

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5055121
File number: EF10/19228; H03/00218

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