Fishermans Bend Migrant Hostel
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 coattail 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 and the car industry was growing. 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. PMHPS member Don Hossack delivered telegrams to the hostel.
The hostel was located on the corner of Turner and Hall Streets as this Melways map 42 (1966) shows.
Sources and further information
Noel Delbridge (2007) Up There Mike Brady
Vivienne Gunn, recording of talk to the PMH&PS 23 September 2003