Hartley Street Migrant Centre
Commemorative plinth and interpretive display installed to recognise the post-World War II migrants centre and the contribution of people who lived there to the development of Cairns.

About the Hartley Street Migrant Centre:

  • The centre was originally the United States Army Warehouses.
  • The first 400 new Australians arrived in Cairns in August 1950.
  • Housing consisted of long rows of rooms with iron beds, a three-ply makeshift hanging closet and dressing table, and painted boxes for placing personal items such as shaving gear and toothbrushes. The floor was bare cement.
  • The centre had a kitchen and a dining room that seated 450 people. Meals were served buffet-style and it was decided that migrants should become accustomed to ordinary Australian meals instead of the European stews and Continental dishes.
  • There was a health clinic with two wards, each with five beds, and equipped with a doctor and two experienced nurses. Additional nursing staff were recruited from among the migrant women.
  • Other facilities included a community laundry, a canteen and a post office.
  • The recreation hall had a piano and other facilities for entertainment, which was paid for out of profits from the canteen.
  • Children were given milk five times a day. There was a kindergarten and arrangements were made for school age children to be bussed to school.
  • Cost of accommodation at Hartley Street Migrant Centre was £2 a week for a mother and one child.
  • Men of migrant families were allotted work on sugarcane farms, railways and other construction projects.
  • Families could leave the centre when they felt comfortable and could afford to move into the community.

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