Issue 3 Migration Heritage Project Newsletter June 2004

In this issue:

  • MHP Telstra & Uptown Crown Street
  • Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel
  • MHP Objects Workshop
  • At a glance
  • Announcements



For many people in Wollongong the Post Office on Crown Street was part of their regular mail stop.

For some years it has been empty and is located in a part of Crown Street that is being revitalised by Uptown Crown – a partnership between the State government and Wollongong City Council.
The street frontage of the building is being reused with the help of Telstra Chief Executive Mark McKenzie and Telstra staff. Their support has been generous, making the window space available as a public gallery and funding the instalation of lighting and fittings for exhibitions.

The windows are lit up in the evening. The inaugural show at the new Windows Gallery is the 2003 exhibition, produced by the Migration Heritage Project – Celebrations: Spirit of Communities. The Windows Gallery was launched on Friday 30 April by the Lord Mayor of Wollongong, Alex Darling.
Gregor Cullen, lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Arts, UOW and member of the MHP, is excited at the potential of the gallery for future exhibitions, including moving images. “We have an understanding in place with Telstra to use the space for 12 months. There is the potential for the space to be used as a Digital Gallery and we are discussing what this would be and how Telstra and the University can support the idea.

For the MHP the second public showing of the exhibition means more people can see the colourful panels which made up the exhibition, originally shown at the Wollongong City Gallery in September 2003. Walk or drive by, and catch up on how five of the many Wollongong cultural groups and families in the region, celebrate significant events.


The several remaining buildings of the Fairy Meadow migrant hostel are now officially on the NSW State Heritage Register.

The University of Wollongong Innovation Campus is going to be built on the hostel site in Fairy Meadow within sight of Puckeys Estate. The site was home to a migrant hostel between the 1950's and 1980's.

There are several hostel buildings left - the only physical evidence in the Illawarra of this period of history. A heritage study noted that there are no known Aboriginal heritage constraints on the site but if construction activity should identify aboriginal relics, work should cease until an appropriate course of action is decided upon.

These remaining buildings will be kept on site. The two smaller ones will be moved alongside the large hut (formerly the science centre). The buildings will be refurbished and are intended for use as a general purpose meeting room by University organizations and student groups; office accommodation for UoW staff and science centre support facilities and student/recreation games room.

Before relocation and refurbishment can begin, an interpretation plan must be submitted to Wollongong City Council. This plan will show how the significance of the site is to be interpreted, for example through signage.

The work on the buildings must be completed by 10 February 2006, unless an extension is sought and granted (by WCC). The DA recommends “that the former residents of the Balgownie Migrant Hostel be consulted in the preparation of the interpretation plan”.

Business owners and owner managers

Did you or do you know someone who owned a shop in Wollongong' s central business district in the 20th century? If you have information, contact the Illawarra Museum. They are collecting information as part of their current exhibition, Shopkeepers and businesses of 20th century Wollongong on at the Illawarra Museum until the end of 2004. They want information such as names of people who were owner-managers, the name of the business, what the business was, who was employed and when the business closed. The Illawarra Historical Society is also interested in any old phone books people may still have.

Illawarra Museum opening times
11 Market Street Thursday 12 – 3 pm
Weekends and Public Holidays 1-4 pm
Telephone: 4228 7770


Cooking Pot brought from Italy by Mistica Filippi (Rina' s mother) in 1929.
Use to be used for cooking over fire in Italy.

Sewing machine bought in Wollongong from a Mrs Bartelli in the 1930s

Rina being interviewed by Arthur Mandico
at the Objects Workshop (May 2003)

Spaghetti maker brought from Italy by Mistica

Wine Cask was owned by a Mr Filippi (no relation) who use to sell wine in Wollongong.
Wine cask was found by Rina when clearing out her father' s home

Filippi family photograph Antonio, Mistica, Alvise (Buzza), Giacomo and Rina Filippi.
T aken at James Studio Wollongong1930

In a garage situated in a Wollongong suburb is a treasure trove of kitchen
and household items

RINA MONTGOMERY is a clever woman, she had the forsight to know were important to her family history and to the history of migrant settlement in the Illawarra. In the Migration Heritage Project Committee is a treasure of a woman who has so many items and memories of migrant settlement in the Illawarra. Put these treasures together and we have our inaugural Objects Workshop.

Rina Montgomery (nee Filippi) is that clever woman and the Migration Heritage Project' s own treasure, inspiration and motivation that drives the committee to gather all information it can on migrants in the Illawarra. Rina was kind enough to share her objects and memories at the Objects Workshop that was held on 4 March 2004. The many people who attended, including many of Rina's family and friends, were privileged to share in her knowledge of the Wollongong she grew up in, known then as Steeltown, from as early as 1929 and see the many objects she has kept.

The workshop started with the Chairperson, Franca Facci, giving an overview of the Migration Heritage Project and the Project's achievements to date such as the Celebrations: Spirit of Communities Exhibition and Public Program held last year and the public forum held which contributed to the listing of the Fairy Meadow Hostel as a site of significance. This was followed by Rina' s presentation as she took us through a slide show of early photographs of her family, home and the Port Kembla, Cringila and Warrawong areas. Rina then displayed her objects starting with her father' s scythe sharpener, followed by a coffee bean roaster, spaghetti maker, wine cask, cooking pot and sewing machine. At the conclusion of Rina' s presentation the participants enjoyed asking Rina about her growing up years in Steeltown.

Thanks to Rina the Migration Heritage Project has started its database of migrant objects in the Illawarra and the Project hopes to continue these workshops focusing on the different nationalities who settled in Wollongong.

Snap Shots

This is a photograph taken at Balgownie Hostel with me, my son and daughter born in Italy, my son born in Argentina and my new baby son, born at the hostel in 1961. I was born in Treviso (meaning three faces) in the province of Veneto in northern Italy. I spoke Italian – the Veneto dialect.
My heritage is Italian – my father came from Rovigo and my mother from Udine province.I arrived in Melbourne, Australia on 4 March 1961 with my husband and children, leaving Italy from Genoa.
We brought our things in 7 trunks – things like a gas stove, 2 push bikes, a step ladder that my son still has; clothes, a radio cassette player, a typewriter, bamboo carpet beater, and a lot of books which were stolen soon after we arrived. On arriving at Wollongong, my husband recollects “If I was alone I would go back straight away. We were disappointed even during the trip coming here. It was very bad. In Italy they didn' t tell us it was necessary to speak the language. My daughter spoke English she had learnt in school. For the first few months she had to listen very hard to understand what people were saying.
What do you do now? We are still working very hard. We are retired but do a lot of community work.
Interview with Giulia and Efrem Bonacina 3 April 2004


The Migration Heritage Project (MHP) has been working steadily to progress the aims of the strategic plan, which was drafted in the early months of the year. Highlights include:

  • Funding for the production of a brochure on migration heritage in the Illawarra. Meredith Walker drafted this document and now with the $4000 grant from the Migration Heritage Centre, we will be able to complete it.
  • The installation of the Celebrations: Spirit of Communities panels in the Telstra building as part of the up town Crown project (see main article)
  • The finalisation of the strategic plan for the MHP
    Negotiations to employ a new project officer to commence in May – June
  • The conduct of a workshop featuring historical objects owned by Rina Montgomery (Filippi) at Italian Social Welfare
  • Planning for a workshop with the Maltese Community on the 15th June 2004
  • Invitation and funding to attend a workshop as part of the National Library' s Multicultural Documentary Heritage Project. Fidelia Pontarolo will be the MHP representative, attending on the 9 – 10 June.
  • Production of a regular newsletter
  • Development of the MHP website which will be on line in the coming days!

Do you have a story to tell? Can you contribute in any way to the evergrowing list of assignments the Migration Heritage Project would like to complete to honour our migrants who settled in the Illawarra? Come join the Migration Heritage Project and form part of a community group that is dedicated to preserving and documenting the history of migrants in the Illawarra. We need your support and help as we continue with the many projects we hope will record our Wollongong Migrants' history for all the people of the Illawarra to learn about as well as the future generations of your own family members.

Would you like to become a member of the Migration Heritage Project? Membership forms are available from Wollongong City Library or you can write to the address below and a membership form will be sent to you in the mail.

The Secretary
Migration Heritage Project Inc.
PO Box 1589
South Coast Mail Centre NSW 2521

Joining Fee (individual): $5.00 ($2.00 pensioners)
Annual Fee (individual): $10.00 ($5.00 pensioners)
(Total of $15.00 ($7.00 for pensioners) upon joining)
Joining Fee (organisations) $10.00
Annual Fee (organisations) $10.00
(Total of $20.00 upon joining)
Joining fees payable within fourteen days of receipt of advice of membership approval
Annual fees payable by 30 June of each year
We would love you to join but you don' t have to be a member to participate.

Club photographs, committee files, trophies …what to do with them?
A special workshop will be held at the George Cross Falcons Club at 7.00 pm on Tuesday 15 June 2004 at 25 Lake Avenue Cringila. Two MHP members and Lorraine Vargas, the Maltese community worker have established a heritage project – documenting the history of the Maltese in Wollongong. At the workshop you will find out how a club or cultural group can begin collecting and recording information about people, places, events and buildings. Come along to find out how to go about it and collect a documentary starter kit. For more information contact the MHP on 4251 4709 or at

Fidelia Pontarolo will also just be back from attending a two day workshop at the National Library, on Documenting Multicultural Heritage. Contact Fidelia if you are interested in this project, or starting something locally on 0438832094.

New project officer starts work on migration heritage register. Tania Mastroianni has just joined the MHP as project officer. She will spend May and June this year contacting and meeting with cultural groups in Wollongong. The MHP wants to find out what has been written, recorded, and created about migrant history. She will be working three days a week in Cultural Services, in the Integral Energy building at 81-83 Burelli Street. If you have any information about past migrant projects contact Tania on 4251 4710 at Cultural Services. This information will be collected in one place and form the foundation of a heritage database.

News: Related links

Become a member

If Illawarra’s cultural heritage matters to you, you may want to stay in touch with MHP and become a member.


For further information:

Migration Heritage Project
PO Box 1589
South Coast Mail Centre
Wollongong NSW 2521