Wollongong Migrant Stories

Hermine Rainow

HERMINE RAINOW AND HER LEGACY TO WOLLONGONG MIGRANTS Mrs Cosmopolitan” was how Hermine Rainow described herself when she was featured in an article that appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 23 September 1971. Her father was Austrian, her mother Hungarian, she married a Bulgaria, the family spoke German and they lived in Australia. Mrs Rainow's own personal experiences in Europe and Australia provided her with insight about the migrant journey that translated into her record of the events and lives of post-World War 2 migrants in Wollongong during the 1960s and 1970s that she captured in her articles for the…

Tambakis Brothers

Peter, Harry and Theo came from the Greek island of Kythera, located on the southwest tip of Peloponnese Peninsula. In 1905, their mother died, leaving behind five small children; three boys and two girls. The soil on the farm was poor and the father struggled to support the family. To gain additional income he worked as a rural labourer. In the early 1900s, Kythera’s political and economic situation including the lack of jobs pushed many young men to emigrate to the mainland of Greece or to other countries such as Canada, USA or Australia. Once settled many men sent money…

Mario Borgo

Prior to arriving in Australia in 1920, Mario Borgo lived in Thiene, in the Italian province of Vicenza. In 1914 at the age of 17 Mario was conscripted into the Italian Army and fought in the Battle of Ortigara often called ‘the Calvary of the Alpini’. After being discharged from the army, Mario continued to work with his father and brother in their cabinet making business. The business did not bring in enough money to support the whole family so Mario, like many other Italians from the area, decided to emigrate to Australia. Mario had learned from a friend of…

Joe Wah Gow

Arrived in Australia from the village of Long Tou Wan in Canton China in the late 1890s. He first settled in Cairns, Queensland and then moved to Wollongong in 1911. He married a local Chinese woman Ida Ko (Dockson) and had 5 children who were all born in Wollongong. In October 1911 Joe Wah Gow opened a drapery and grocery shop in upper Crown Street and firmly established his presence in the town of Wollongong. Joe Wah Gow offered his customers a range of imported clothes and textiles, including silk. His business motto was ‘once a customer, always a customer’.…

Charlie Ameera Box

Arrived in Australia in 1890s at the age of 17 from a village in India. He could not write or read in his native language and never learned to read or write in English. After arriving in Australia he travelled the coast of NSW as a hawker, visiting rural towns and isolated farms. It is assumed that like many other Indian hawkers of the late 19th century and early 20th century, that Charlie Ameera Box probably sold a diverse range of products ranging from silks to pots and pans, carrying the goods in bundles made form large sheets, suitcases or…

Joe Puglisi

In the early 1900s life on the Island of Lipari, in Southern Italy was very harsh for fisherman Michele Puglisi, his wife Giuseppina (Peppina) and their children Giuseppe (Joe), Maria, Bartholomew (Bob), Samone (Sam), Lucia, Venera, Salvatore and Giuseppina (Pina). Joe was the eldest child and a great help to his father who taught him traditional methods of fishing. However, regardless of their skills and hard work, the sea around Lipari was not always generous and there was often not enough fish to sell and not enough money to buy food or clothes for the family. The Puglisi family, like…

Phineas Beatus

A Polish Jew born in 1830 in Kalisz, Poland. His family's social and financial position was well-established, however Poland was not a sovereign country and punishment and repression under Russian rule made life difficult. After the ‘November Uprising’ in 1830, Russia restricted the freedom of the Polish people. In the late 1840s Phineas left Poland, escaping compulsory enlistment in the Russian army by fleeing to England where he lived for several years. The discovery of gold in Australia in 1853 inspired him to travel to the gold fields of Victoria. Phineas arrived in Melbourne, Victoria in August 1853. He made…

Evelthon Imisides

Born in Vatili Northern Cyprus in 1900. As a young man he worked in the silkworm industry in Vatili and eventually also as an irrigation superintendent. Evelthon arrived in Australia in 1928, and was among the early Greek Cypriots to arrive in Australia. On arrival he lived in Sydney for a few years where he worked as a chef in one of Sydney’s restaurants. In 1936 Evelthon Imisides, along with his wife Esther and two children, left Sydney and moved to Wollongong. Their first Wollongong home was a miner’s cottage at Mt Keira which they shared with another Greek family,…

Conrad Heininger

The history of Dapto’s first Butchers’ Shop can be traced back to August 1855 when 13 year old Conrad Heininger and his family arrived in Sydney from Germany. It is unknown why the Heininger’s left Hemsbach in south western Germany, travelled to the port of Hamburg and boarded the barque ‘Charles Ross” with 100 other German immigrants to migrate to Australia. At the time, the reason for most German emigration was the poor economic and social situation the country faced during the 1850s. After a short stay in Sydney the family travelled to Maryborough, Queensland. Soon after their arrival, Conrad’s…

Tony Hart

TONY HART BALGOWNIE HOSTEL, 1965 My parents, Derek and Margaret (Peggy) Hart, my two older brothers Laurie and Chris, my younger sister Jackie and I left Wales, UK, in 1965. We travelled by air via the USA (possibly Los Angeles) and arrived in Australia on 2 April 1965. The decision to come to Australia is that my parents wanted better options for themselves and us, their children. I remember how hot it was as we travelled from Sydney by train to Wollongong then via taxi to Balgownie Hostel, (later to be known as Fairy Meadow Hostel). We were still in…

John and Brenda Theobald

JOHN & BRENDA THEOBALD BERKELEY HOSTEL, 1959 My wife Brenda and I, together with our 14 month old twin boys, Ian and Peter, departed Tilbury, Essex in England on 6 June 1959 onboard the SS Orontes and arrived in Sydney on 16 July 1959. On one income we did not seem to be able to save a deposit for a house in the UK. January 1959 was very cold and when we saw the advertisement in the paper about migration to Australia and after reading every book in the library about that country, it seemed a good idea. Some of…

William Gartley (Binks) McGill

WILLIAM GARTLEY (BINKS) MCGILL BALGOWNIE HOSTEL, 1952 William (Binks) McGill was my Uncle, whom I never met, as he sailed to Australia a few weeks before I was born. From Australian Immigration Records I have found that William Gartley McGill (born 23 February 1916 in Scotland), Annie Boyd McGill (nee Adair) (born 31 March 1927 in Scotland) and Yvonne McGill (born 19 July 1951 in Scotland) embarked on the Ship Chitral in London on 14 May 1952 and arrived in Australia 13 June 1952 on the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme. This following is a transcript of his Binks’s first letter…

Eric Taylor

ERIC TAYLOR BALGOWNIE HOSTEL, 1954 In 1954 my Mum (Lavinia, 37) and Dad (Alan, 37) decided to emigrate to Australia. At that time, they had three sons: David (15), me, Eric (10), and Peter (6) and they were concerned about their future as we were living on the small island of Guernsey with perhaps few prospects. (Little did they know that Guernsey was to become a leading offshore financial centre). Dad completed our application to come to come to Australia on 18 January 1954 and by June 1954 our application was approved. Then on 22 September 1954 we departed Southampton…

Andrew Best

ANDREW BEST BALGOWNIE HOSTEL, 1968 I was 11 years old and my family decided to emigrate from England. My father was interviewed by BBC Two on the boat. Rain to Southampton and he said that he couldn’t really see any future for his family in England. We lived in Manchester and every time that he settled into a job the factory would close or there would be massive redundancies so he thought that his children would have a better chance in Australia. We arrived in Australia on 3 February 1968 onboard the RHMS Ellinis. We lived at the Fairy Meadow…

Marzia Bonacina Zochil

MARZIA BONACINA ZOCHIL & THE BONACINA FAMILY BALGOWNIE MIGRANT HOSTEL, 1961 We left Italy in 1961 arriving in Australia in March. My parents, Giulia and Efrem Bonacina decided to migrate to Australia because my father, when renewing his contract to sell expensive machinery for a baking firm, was unable to secure the 10% payment his previous contract allowed as the payment under the new contract was reduced to 1%. My mother worked as a secretary and had asked for a pay rise because she was about to lose the child allowance for myself as I was turning 18. She was…

Assaf (George) Badran

The early Lebanese migrants started arriving in Australia in the mid-19th century. They came from the area of Mount Lebanon. Because this area was the province of Syria in the Ottoman Empire (Turkish territory), they were called ‘Syrians’ or ‘Ottomans’. Financial hardship and religious persecution were some of the reasons the Lebanese left their homeland country. A large number of Lebanese migrants, who arrived in NSW during the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century, settled in Redfern, Sydney. Many of them were self employed and owned businesses and warehouses which provided not only employment to those Lebanese who…

Joseph Marceau

Joseph Marceau was born on 24 January 1806 in St Jean, L’Acadie, Quebec, Canada. He arrived in Australia on 25 February 1840. Joseph was a farmer, resided in Dapto from the 1840s until his death on 9 June 1883 where he is buried. In 1837 in Lower Canada (Quebec) a rebellion against British rule was put down by the British troops resulting in 178 patriots taken as prisoners. The punishment for taking part in the rebellion was very harsh: 29 of the prisoners were executed and the remaining 149 prisoners were sentenced and transported to Australia as convicts. The rebels…

George Bertram Adams

Thursday 31st July 1902. George Bertram Adams (my great grandfather) 23 years of age, finished breakfast around 5.30am. Then strapping on his miners belt, with tucker tin attached, kissed Jane, his wife of 8 months, (18 years old and pregnant with my grandmother) goodbye. He clumped down the wooden steps at the front of his company owned miners cottage, in Soldiers Road Kembla Heights; walked the half mile up the road to Mount Kembla Mine and stepped into history. (above George and Jane Adams (nee Paterson) wedding photo 27 November 1901). At 2.03 pm that day the mine exploded; propelling…

Rina Montgomery

Rina Montgomery was born in Valli, Italy, in 1924 and emigrated to Australia with her mother and brother in 1929 where her father, Giacomo Filippi, had come some three years earlier. The family's first home was in Railway Street Corrimal, but a few months later moved to Shellharbour Road in Port Kembla. Rina's father worked in the steelworks and her mother ran a boarding house from the family home, as well as giving birth to another child, a boy. The family moved to Steeltown (known as Cringilia today) in 1934 and continued to take in boarders, normally immigrant men working…

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