Thursday, June 13, 2013

Migrant hostel in Fishermans Bend

Mike Brady's huge contribution to Australian life has been recognised in the Queens Birthday Honours with an AM.
A less well know part of his story is the time his family spent in the migrant hostel in Fishermans Bend after their arrival in Melbourne in the '50s.  The experience of life in the hostel is described in a colourful way by Noel Delbridge in his book 'Up There Mike Brady':
"A blind man could describe the scene, because the inescapable odours of Port Melbourne are penetrating the tiniest chinks in the bus doors and windows. It’s an obnoxious smelling cocktail of animal, vegetable and chemical waste. 
To the south of the hostel is the Port Melbourne tip, permanently burning the rotting garbage deposited from homes and nearby vegetable and fish markets. The prevailing wind drives the sour smoke over the hostel. 
To the east, stretching almost to the city, is a chain of animal-holding yards and abattoirs. Here, pigs are slaughtered and put through a furnace to burn off their bristles. The stench of burning hair and flesh is compounded as it joins the stink of boiling fat from the Unilever and Cedel soap factories.
 Adjacent to the hostel is the Kraft Vegemite factory. The pungent, yeasty smell drifts over constantly. Vegemite is not the spread of choice at breakfast in the hostel canteen.
The Brady's accommodation was in a large corrugated-iron hut divided into four flats. Each flat had three rooms - a living room in the middle and a bedroom at each end. Bathroom and toilet blocks, concrete and wet, were outside.
An easement on the southern perimeter of the hostel became the boys' secret adventure park. It was a dumping ground for hard rubbish. ... Near Cook Street, adjacent to the hostel, was a brackish swamp of uncertain depth containing unknown liquids ... Old car bodies provided islands. This was a scary place, and they banned horseplay among themselves for fear of falling into the ooze and dissolving."
It is poignant to recall those times when there was work for everybody, the car industry was in a growth  phase and new migrants were welcomed to the country. As another resident of the hostel recalled, her mother got a job at GMH 'just a walk over the sand dunes'. She attended Graham St School and her brother went to South Melbourne Tech.
I am not absolutely sure of the precise location of the hostel. PMHPS member Don delivered telegrams to the hostel, and he is definite it was in Ingles St near Lorimer St, even though Delbridge says it was in Hall St. Do you have any further information or recollection of the hostel? 

Sources and further information
Noel Delbridge Up There Mike Brady (Coulomb Communications Port Melbourne)
Vivienne Gunn, recording of talk to the PMH&PS 23 September 2003


  1. Good grief.....I remember as an eleven year old, wagging school (J H Boyd), whilst mum and dad were at work, going down to the tip, clambering about...... avoiding the hot-spots, hoping to find something useful, like pram wheels, etc!

  2. Great to receive this comment. Bet you have many more stories to share. Have you been back to the refurbished J H Boyd?

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  4. Hello I live in England, but I've resurrected a link or two, and via Facebook, I've found a couple of girls who were in my year (1957-59)

  5. A paragraph (or more) about your life in Port would be so excellent. My email is
    Great to be in touch with you anyway. I expect you know J H Boyd is now a library and community centre - just search City of Melbourne Boyd Library

  6. Hi Janet, I'd love to share a memory or two with you.....I'll be in touch :-)


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