Nissen Huts

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Nissen huts were named after Peter Norman Nissen(1871-1930) a British army officer and mining engineer who designed them. They were a prefabricated building of corrugated steel in the shape of a half cylinder. With the U.S.A. preparing for World War One, Nissen's design was immediately accepted as an all-purpose building for use overseas. It had a semi-circular cross-section for strength, cavity walls for insulation, and required no special skill to erect. It had the further advantage that it used common materials such as concrete, corrugated iron, and plaster-board, and was therefore cheap.Nissen huts became the standard U.S. army building overseas, used especially by military personnel as a shelter. Erection was normally carried out by six men over a period of 4 hours. The record time for erecting a hut was 1 hour 27 minutes. Hundreds of thousands made their appearance on airstrips, hospitals and army depots around the world including Australia.
After the First World War Nissen huts helped with housing shortages and were seen again in various guises in many theatres of war.
The huts have seen service as migrant hostels, churches, schools, chooks sheds and even barns.

Nissen huts were a staple of migrant camps in 1950s Australia.
Initially migrant workers hostels were run by the Department of Labour. The administration of hostels was handed over to Commonwealth
Hostels Limited in January 1952. The Department of Immigration was responsible for Commonwealth owned hostels and service camps used to house displaced persons and other immigrants arriving in Australia. This Commonwealth-owned company operated until 1978. They established and administered migrant reception and training centres and migrant accommodation centres such as Bonegilla, Benalla, Broadmedows, Holmesglen, Somers and East Preston in Victoria, Rushworth, Stuart and Wacol in Queensland and Northam Holden, Graylands and Cunderdin in Western Australia. In NSW, from 1948 to 1978, migrant hostels operated in Adamstown, Balgownie, Bankstown, Bathurst, Bradfield Park, Bunnerong, Burwood, Matraville, Cabramatta, Cronulla, Dundas,East Hills, Ermington, Goulburn, Greta, Katoomba, Kingsgrove, Kyeemagh, Leeton, Lithgow,Mascot, Mayfield, Meadowbank, Nelson Bay, North Head, Orange, Port Kembla, Port Stephens, Randwick, St Marys, Scheyville, Schofields, Unanderra, Villawood, Wallerawang and Wallgrove.

Opinion of a Migrant: "Of course the few examples of Nissen huts still existing should be preserved for heritage purposes. It is true that many migrants of the 50's and 60's cried themselves to sleep in their first nights of Nissen living and in their early days of arrival. Many questioned the wisdom of coming here to what they saw as primitive living and abhorred the Hostel experience. To them the hostel is a memory to forget. Fortunately most overcame the initial shock and homesickness and pioneered a new life for their families.
To many of the children arrivals however, the introduction to Aussie was a wonderful experience of adventure and exploration and the Hostel communal living left fond memories of friendship and a carefree outdoor life". Resident of Balgownie Migrant Hostel