Williamstown Racecourse – 1950s images (migrant hostel)

A number of people have kindly sent my images over the last few years. I have gained permission to post them, but ask you respect these are the property of the provider and shouldn’t be used without their permission.


The old racecourse was used as a migrant hostel from about 1949. Rob Medlen’s father ran a business there and sent me scanned images with some very valuable hand written text, which I have manually transcribed.

Rob Medlen’s Images

The source of this is a handwritten letter to me from September 2015. Rob’s father “had his business” [a ‘kiosk’- more later on this] here at the old Racecourse, “from 1950….up until the late 50’s when the migrant hostel was consolidated north of the Kororoit Creek & numbers of immigrants dropped significantly from the hostel system” He adds “Dad also had the catering contract with Braun Transworld Corporation when they were building the refinery & pipelines. This was run from the same premises…”

Here are some of photos. You can click on each one to enlarge.

c1950 Main ‘Canteen’ with old Grandstand in background (source: Rob Medlen)

Rob also posted me an annotated version to explain what’s what:

Annotated by Rob Medlen

Notes on the above “This area was the hub of activity in the Racecourse area from 1950 on. The rest of the Racecourse was out of bounds & mostly fenced off with slow amounts of demolition progressing.  * Public Grandstand was intact & undamaged. Kitchen in undercroft (sic) was used for meal preparation in early days of displaced persons camp before further development of migration hostel on other side of creek”

An overview image from August 1950 (assumed, based on similar image – below). “Taken from Grandstand” :

Overview with creek etc (source: Rob Medlen)

The above, hand annotated:

Overview – annotated by Rob

Cut-off text on RHS “Seating area Tables & Chairs for coffee/drinks etc”

Lastly an Overview, but from closer up:

Overview (source: Rob Medlen)

“Canteen” ?

From Rob: “…’Canteen’ misleading as business sold everything necessary for new arrivals…

  • soft drinks
  • ice cream
  • confectionery
  • personal items razors, soaps, pen knives, clocks, radios, bicycles, clothing etc
  • continental food, sauerkraut (by barrel), smoked sausage etc rollmops (herrings)
  • Tea/coffee – seats & tables provided indoors
  • biscuits, snack foods etc
  • cigarettes, cigars etc”

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