View this email in your browser
MHP Newsletter Issue 36: March 2021
Unanderra Hostel was not the first hostel to be constructed in the Illawarra Region, but it was the first hostel built and operated by the Commonwealth Government in the Illawarra.  The Commonwealth Government first considered building a hostel in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area in 1947.  The hostel was known by many names until it was commonly referred to as Unanderra Hostel.  It was also known as the Port Kembla Hostel, the Kembla Hostel, the Commonwealth Hostel, the Government Hostel, the Displaced Persons Migrants Hostel and the Balts Hostel.

Unanderra No 1 Hostel was purposely built for Displaced Persons single, male, migrants to be employed in the iron and steel industries.  Unit 1 dormitory huts were constructed with timber-frames, sheeted externally with weather boards and internal walls lined with fibrous plaster, galvanised iron roofs and timber floors and commenced operating in 1949.
The final location for Unanderra No 1 Hostel site was not the first one chosen.  Find out where the Commonwealth Government first wanted to build the hostel, why it finally chose the Unanderra site and where it would be located today if it had survived.  Click on the Unanderra Hostel button below.
Unanderra Hostel
A Champion of Post-World War 2 Wollongong Migrants
Many of the early post-World War 2 migrants who came to the Illawarra from 1945 had to rely on each other or the kindness of strangers because there was not a network of cultural or social organisations available to help them navigate their new life.  So was the situation in 1949 when the first group of Displaced Persons Migrants were sent to work in the heavy industries in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area.  In fact, they faced prejudice and racism and opposition from Unions.  Many of the men were sent on their own to Port Kembla, separated from their families who had been sent to Holding Centres in various parts of NSW.  The same men, women and children who had witnessed the evils of war or suffered severe hardship during the war.
On 8 February 1950 nearly 50 sporting and local organisations attended a meeting in Wollongong called by the Mayor of Greater Wollongong, Alderman Dawson, where they discussed the social and welfare needs of the migrants living in hostels in the district.  The City of Greater Wollongong New Australians’ Social Committee was formed.  The aim of the New Australians’ Social Committee was to help migrants to become part of the Australian way of life and encouraged the people of Wollongong to accept them as real Australians.  The Committee met regularly and organised such things as “Welcome” socials, sports and access to financial, legal and accommodation assistance.  The Committee also assisted with finding accommodation that enabled the New Australian migrants to bring a fiancée or wife to Wollongong.  Wollongong was the first place in Australia to have a migrant welfare committee.  At that first meeting was Harry Box where he was elected Secretary of the City of Wollongong New Australians' Social Committee.  He remained with the Wollongong New Australians’ Social Committee throughout its entirety as Secretary and when it was replaced by a Wollongong branch office of the Good Neighbour Council, he continued his work as its Chairman.
Harry Box was born in Wagga Wagga and came to Wollongong in 1940 where he became one of the city’s best-known businessmen.  During the war Harry Box was secretary of the Wollongong Comforts Fund which raised money for soldiers on active service, secretary of the Wollongong branch of the Commonwealth Loans Committee to raise money for the war and  elected a special police constable in cases of emergencies.  In the 1940s Mr Box was a foundation member of the Pioneer Hall Committee that was formed to raise money to build the hall for pensioners, a member of the Illawarra Eisteddfod Society and when this became the Wollongong Eisteddfod Committee in 1960, became foundation Vice-President. Mr Box was also a foundation member of the Wollongong Police Citizens Boys’ Club, the Illawarra Leagues Club and the Wollongong Club in Smith Street, he acted as the local representative for concert series before the ABC Concert Committee was formed and was instrumental in having Wollongong included on the official itinerary.  Mr Box was secretary of the ABC Concert Committee in 1960 and retained this position for some years. One of the reasons Harry Box gave for setting up the Wollongong ABC Concert Series was because of the large influx of migrants from Europe interest in classical music. Harry Box opened his own music shop in the Bright Arcade in Crown Street in 1944 and this was not only the place he ran his business from but was the headquarters for many of his other interests and committee duties.
In 1963 and 1964 there were many splinter groups within the German community in Wollongong.  Harry Box, as part of the Good Neighbour Council, called a meeting on 1 August 1965 to bring the groups together.  The Australian-German-Austrian Club, which later became the AGA Club Germania was formed.  The first clubhouse was at Berkeley and Harry Box was made a life member.
In 1969, at age 74, Harry Box earnt a rest and decided to retire from his business life, although he would continue his work with the migrant community.  Mr Box was a keen gardener and kept a tropical style garden at his home in Gipps Street and was known to have the best bananas and peanuts in Wollongong.  Harry had one daughter and a grandson at the time he announced his retirement.  On Tuesday, 6 May 1969 a Mayoral Reception was given to honour Mr Harry Box to mark his retirement.  Harry Box was made patron of the Australian International Friendship Association when it was formed on 26 June 1969.  It Wollongong’s first international organisation.  The aim of the Association was to bring people of different nationalities together to enjoy the diversity of their backgrounds and at the same time share in the common experience of settling in a new country.
A testimonial dinner was given to pay tribute to Mr Harry Box for his work with the Wollongong Good Neighbour Council as well as a foundation member.  Mr Box was accompanied by his wife and daughter, Mrs Wendy Deveson, who was staying with her parents on holiday from England with her 11-year-old son, Bradley.  The function, organised by Mr W. Hough, MLA, was held on Saturday, 28 June 1969, at Illawarra Leagues Club and was attended by more than 300 people of 20 nationalities including some in traditional costume.  Mr Olender spoke on behalf of the Ukrainian community and thanked Mr Box for “being our friend right from the beginning”.  The Italian Consular General of Wollongong, Mr G. Perusuco described Mr Box as a pioneer who started the ball rolling for this kind of work on behalf of the migrants.  Mr Berenyi was the spokesman for the Hungarian community and said that they will never forget the work he did for them.  Newly arrived Mrs K. Szerdahelyi, from Budapest, attended the function with her son and daughter-in-law, Mr and Mrs S. Szerdahelyi-Kovaks, and 80-year-old Grandmother Kovacs.  Others present were: Father Joseph from the Italian Centre, Pastor and Mrs Pilmanis, Mrs W. Kalnin, President of the Estonian Society and Mrs M. Reelaid, Secretary of the Estonian Society, Mr Papendell, conductor of the German male choir, Sanssouci and Mrs Papendell, Mr A. Andrich, Vice-President of the AGA Germania Club with his wife and daughter Renata, Mr W. Daniel, President of the German Saturday School and Mr G. Ohlin who represented Denmark.  The Latvian community entertained the guests with a floor show.  Mr and Mrs Reino Tolvanen, represented the Finnish community and Mrs Tolvanen wore the Finnish national costume.
In July 1969 the Australian-German-Austrian Club German (AGA-Germania Club) held its first annual ball at the Warrawong Hall attended by about 400 people who were welcomed by the Club President, Mr W.M. Leiner.  A plaque was presented at the Ball to Harry Box, in appreciation of his service to new settlers of all nationalities.
The Wollongong Regional office of the Good Neighbour Council opened in February 1970 in the heart of Wollongong and was located in an upstairs office in Flinders Chambers at the corner of Crown and Keira Streets.  The new office was the Good Neighbour Council’s first official home in Wollongong and was staffed by two, a field officer and a clerk.  For 20 years prior the Wollongong Office of the Good Neighbour Council was conducted by the branch chairman, Mr Harry Box, on a voluntary basis out of his music shop in Crown Street.  Mr Box was pleased about the establishment of a regional office of the Good Neighbour Council which proved to him the importance of the area as a migrant centre.
Harry Box received the order of “The Freedom of the City” for his services and on 6 March 1970 was re-elected the chairman of the Good Neighbour Council.  On 10 April 1970 when Queen Elizabeth visited Wollongong, the Queen congratulated Harry Box who had organised 206 migrant children, representing 32 nationalities wearing national dress, to form a guard of honour to demonstrate the cosmopolitan character of Wollongong.
In 1971 Harry Box resigned from the Good Neighbour Council after 21 years of unbroken service.  Mr Box was made the first life member at the annual meeting in recognition of his many years of service with the Good Neighbour Council in Wollongong during which he had arranged for 1,240 people to migrate from Britain, 20 from behind the Iron Curtain, filled in more than 1,500 applications for naturalisation and attended 9,620 naturalisations, found jobs for more than 800 and accommodation for more than 1,000 people.
Harry Box was awarded a British Empire Medal in 1971 for his work.  Henry George (Harry) Box died on 4 May 1978 aged 83.  He left behind his wife Mabs, daughter and grandson.
Ludwik Ihnat was a founding member of the Migration Heritage Project (MHP) who sadly passed away on Friday 1 January 2021.  Ludwik was a member of the MHP Committee for many years until health reasons prevented him from actively participating on the Committee but he remained, for many years, a loyal and supportive member.
Born in Germany of Ukrainian parents during World War II, Ludwik’s family transited through the Displaced Persons camps and immigration process through to Naples Italy, boarding the ship "General Black" that arrived in Sydney on 13 December 1949 when he was six years old.  Ludwik and his family lived in migrant camps at Bathurst, Parkes and Greta until they moved to Thirroul in 1953.
Ludwik commenced work as an Industrial Chemist Trainee in various iron and steel laboratories.  On completing studies in chemistry and electronics he then moved into the primary production agglomeration process areas and later into administration.  Ludwik retired from BHP Steel after 40 years service.
Ludwik’s  involvement in  community work began in the  Ukrainian community in the mid 1970s  with  the Saturday Ukrainian  School and  cultural group. Becoming the Ukrainian community liaison person led Ludwik to a deeper involvement with the Illawarra Ethnic Communities Council (IECC) in many levels including Chairman (1983-92).

The new 1983 management team had brought a significant and much needed change in character and direction to the IECC.  Accommodation premises and grants to employ staff quickly followed in 1984.  IECC also played a leading role in consolidating unity among ethnic groups to act as a unified voice resulting in ethno specific daycare funding and acquiring Federal Government funding to establish an ethnic aged home and the purchase of land from Wollongong City Council for the site of the Multicultural Village at Port Kembla as some examples.
For many years Ludwik continued to represent the Ukrainian community and as a volunteer brought aged Ukrainians to the Eastern European daycare.  In 2007 Ludwik was quoted as saying, “I believe that the minority ethnic groups need special attention at this time to record their history in the local area.  These groups are fast disappearing due to no new migration, high percentage of intermarriage of their youth and of course a very high integration into the Australian community.”
Ludwik was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1989 for his community work.
Copyright © 2018 Migration Heritage Project Inc., All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a member of MHP, requested to join the MHP mailing list or expressed an interest in the MHP in the past.  This mailing list is used to email MHP newsletters and notices of some events relating to heritage.
Your details will not be shared with any other organisation or person.

Our mailing address is:
Migration Heritage Project
PO Box 1589 South Coast Mail Centre NSW 2521

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Migration Heritage Project · PO Box 1589 · Wollongong, NSW 2521 · Australia

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp