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IN THE CITY MAGAZINE
The Canberra Times | In The City Magazine | WINTER
Following World War II, the
Australian government created
an extensive building program
to transform Canberra into a
city worthy of being the nation's capital.
The Minister for the Interior, HV
Johnson announced £7 million would
be spent on the greatest building boom
Canberra had ever seen. To cater for
the sudden demand for tradesmen,
a plan was released to build seven
workers hostels in areas such as Ainslie,
Eastlake and Fairbairn.
The community protested many of
the proposed sites, including the plan
to build a workmen's hostel in Turner.
The Turner Progress Association went
so far as to write to the minister about
In the letter, dated October 29, 1948,
the association secretary wrote: "Hostels
for "men only" or "women only" have
proved to be not in the best interests of
"When adult men and women are
segregated the psychological effect
upon them is bad. They tend to become
morbid and to suffer a sense of social
frustration, to which the weaker
personalities succumb and fall prey
to unsocial desires and actions. These
people then become a menace to the
community in which they live."
Despite community outrage, the
hostels were built and by the early
1950s, more than 2500 men from
around Australia, as well as migrants,
called them home.
Local historian and author Alan
Foskett is researching the Turner
Workmen's Hostel, which housed many
of the men who built the houses and
buildings that helped Canberra grow as
"In the early '50s about 22 per cent
of Canberra's population was living in
hostels. It was a very significant part of
the social history of the city," he said.
"They played an important part in the
development of Canberra in the difficult
Tom Bailey, 86, was one such man.
He became a resident of the Turner
Workmen's Hostel in 1949 at just 23.
He recalls men in the hostels were fairly
segregated from the community.
"When we all arrived here we were a
pretty motley lot I suppose," he said.
"We knew that we weren't wanted;
that was made very clear to us. We kept
to ourselves in the hostel."
Tom had never intended to make
Canberra his home. He came across
with 36 other ex-servicemen from
Workmen who came to Canberra after World War
community that resented the great influx of new re
Alan Foskett about living in the city's
Tom Bailey and
lived in the
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