Local migrants’ stories told in new book

A book chronicling the lives of migrants who lived at the Willaston Migrant Workers’ Hostel on their arrival to Australia after the Second World War was officially launched on Sunday afternoon.

About 40 people, including some of the original migrants, and their families and friends attended the launch at the Gawler National Trust of the book This’ll do by Gawler resident Jeff Turner and Town of Gawler librarian  Anne Richards.

In officially launching the book, Light MP Tony Piccolo drew on his experience as a migrant to Australia as a result of World War 2.

Mr Piccolo explained how his uncle, a soldier in the Italian army, was a Prisoner of War in Australia and worked on farms at Gumeracha.

“When the war was over, the farmers where my uncle worked, sponsored his (and his family’s) migration to Australia, in 1952-53,” Mr Piccolo said.

“Ten years later my uncle sponsored my family, and I arrived in Australia in 1963, with my parents and older sister.”

Mr Piccolo said that every migrant story is different, because all migrants have come to Australia under different circumstances; some as post World War 2 refugees fleeing persecution in their own countries, to others seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families.

“While their circumstances were different, there is one thing that they have in common; they appreciate and are grateful for the opportunity to live a better life here,” Mr Piccolo said.

The book, through personal stories, researching of old local newspapers, and the reading of official reports of the time, tells how the Willaston RAAF base was converted into a makeshift camp for migrants from diverse backgrounds.

“Families escaping persecution in Eastern Europe, to people from England as part of the assisted migration program (10 pound poms) lived at the Willasto Migrant Hostel until they were able to be resettled.”

“Many of the families have remained in the area, attending local schools, working in local businesses, and raising families.”

Mr Piccolo said Mr Turner and Ms Richards have a produced an important book that will help ensure that the stories of this group of people is not lost through the passage of time.

“These migrants have made an important contribution to our town, but we really don’t appreciate their place in our community until we understand the hardships many endured before settling in Australia,” Mr Piccolo said.

“Despite language and cultural differences, they have all integrated well into our community over time.”

The book is available for purchase at Gawler Books at Willaston and at the Gawler National Trust, and was made possible with a community grant from the Town of Gawler.