61 - 71Williamson Rd, Maribyrnong
During WW2, a Pyrotechnic Factory was built on the Explosive Factory land at the western end of Williamson Rd.
This factory was closed at the end of the war and in the early 1950’s, the site was converted into the Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel.
The hostel was used by the Australian Commonwealth Government to help to resettle many thousands of displaced people from war torn Europe. By using prefabricated ex-WW2 Quonset “Nissen” huts, many purchased from the British Ministry of Works, provide the accommodation for the immigrants, and several of the existing Pyrotechnic buildings were used for administration, communal dining, laundry, and educational areas.
Many of the Quonset huts were replaced with more modern buildings, when in 1969, the Midway Hostel was built at the eastern end of the site, and in 1971, the Phillip Hostel was built at the western end of the site. Even during this time some 13 buildings from the original Pyrotechnic Factory buildings and associated infrastructure remained and were still being used for administration and communal purposes.
The Midway Hostel consisted of 25 two-storey accommodation buildings together with separate laundry blocks, English language school and a childcare centre. These buildings were made from concrete brick blocks. There were also several detached houses along the south side of Williamson Rd and west side of Hampstead Rd.
The Phillip Hostel consisted of two circles of two-storey buildings with an internal two-storey walking linking both circles of buildings and a native landscape area was provided inside the ring of the buildings. Only some of the units had cooking and laundry facilities. To meet the needs of most of the immigrants, communal facilities including a large dining room were provided.
By the mid 1980’s, the requirements for large migrant centres had diminished and the Phillip Hostel closed in 1986, followed by the Midway Hostel in 1987.
After the closure of the migrant centre, both hostels were converted to student accommodation by the nearby Footscray Institute of Technology (Now Victoria Institute of Technology “VUT”). The Phillip Hostel became the Gilmour Centre and opened to students in 1989, followed by the Midway Hostel as the “Student Village” in 1990.
The Gilmour Centre closed in 2001 and the western end of the site was sold off to developers who built a residential housing estate. The Student Village closed in 2016.
The only part of the site that is still in use is the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre, located in the south – east corner of the site in Hampstead Rd. This centre open in 1983 and was set up for people who had over-stayed their visas, had their visa cancelled, or who had been denied entry into the country through international airports and seaports.
The site is of historical significance with is association to the Pyrotechnic Section of the Explosives Factory and that the site contains the largest and only intact post WW2 migrant hostels in Victoria. Several of the buildings have architectural significance including the Quonset huts and the fibre clement sheet Pyrotechnic buildings.
Today, the remaining part of the Gilmour Centre and the Student Village remain vacant and are waiting redevelopment. The circular shape of the distinctive Phillip Hostel buildings can still be clearly seen on Googlemaps.
Ref: Victorian Heritage Database Report FORMER MARIBYRNONG MIGRANT HOSTEL Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number: H2190.
Ref: Former Midway & Phillip (Maribyrnong) Migrant Hostels Supplementary Assessment of Heritage Significance. Prepared for The City of Maribyrnong February 2008 Revised March 2008 (twice), by Simon Reeves and David Wixted.
Ref: MARIBYRNONG STUDENT VILLAGE, Migrants, students, and detainees at Maribyrnong, August 31, 2017 benjaminthomaswhite.