New Monument Proposed in Heffron Park to Recognise History of Migrants in Sydney

Heffron Park (Photo credit: Jeremy T/Google Maps)

In the years following World War II, Sydney saw an influx of migrants arriving from a war-ravaged Europe seeking a fresh start. Facing a massive influx of migrants after the war and desperate to provide housing, the State established the Bunnerong Migrant Hostel by converting old naval storage facilities at Bunnerong Park (now Heffron Park in Maroubra) into accommodations.

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Despite having a capacity of 1,200 people, the conditions were far from ideal, with the buildings poorly insulated and migrants forced to eat communally in dormitory-style halls, preventing any sense of normal family life. The living conditions and amenities at the hostel were regarded as among the worst in all of Australia. 

Gordon James Choake holding his daughter at Bunnerong Migrant Hostel (Photo credit: Marilyn Wilson Collection/Randwick City Library)

The facilities were wholly unsuitable for comfortably accommodating the migrants, but the government had little choice given the urgent need for housing at the time.

Despite these hardships, the migrants persevered, determined to build better lives in their new home.

Group of migrant children at Bunnerong Migrant Hostel (Photo credit: Marilyn Wilson Collection/Randwick City Library)

Now, over 70 years later, there is a push to honour the sacrifices and contributions of these post-war migrants with a permanent memorial at Heffron Park itself. The proposal was brought forward by Cr Noel D’Souza, who emphasised the importance of acknowledging the vital role migrants played in Australia’s development.

Cr D’Souza said migrants were willing to take menial jobs when first settling, and many showed an incredible work ethic and willingness to sacrifice in order to establish themselves in their new country. He stated they built modern Australia through the knowledge, cultures, and skills they brought with them.

In presenting his motion to Randwick Council, Cr D’Souza highlighted how migrants were essential to the growth of industry and infrastructure in Australia’s post-war years. 

A memorial would not only pay tribute to their efforts but serve as an opportunity for “truth-telling” about a piece of history that has too often been forgotten amid debates about statues and their relevance.

Cr D’Souza viewed it as a chance to share the forgotten history of migrants from all over the world who left everything behind to start a new life in Australia full of hope. His motion to install a memorial at Heffron Park was ultimately carried out.

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Whilst the form is still to be determined, Cr D’Souza suggested a monument or even a large granite rock with a plaque could sufficiently honour the migrants who helped shape modern Australia through their perseverance and passion for their new home. After decades of having their struggles and sacrifices go unrecognised, Maroubra may soon have a permanent reminder of their indelible impact.

Published 20-April-2024