As I was idly browsing the Powerhouse museum today, I came across an iconic object – the guitar of Harry Vanda from the Easybeats. I’d only vaguely heard of the Easybeats, but according to Wikipedia, “They are widely regarded as the greatest Australian pop band of the 1960s and were the first Australian rock and roll act to score an international pop hit”.
The thing that interested me was that they met while at Villawood Migrant Hostel. The Villawood Migrant Hostel was set up just after World War II as a reasonably short term place to house recent migrants. It started with Nissan Huts, and then moved onto fairly basic apartments. I went there twice during this period.
Once, one of my cousins from New Zealand came across as part of a Scottish bagpipe band, and they were billeted there as cheap accommodation.
Then a few years later (I’d guess about 1980) my gymnastics class went there and did a display for the residents. We did that every now and again for fetes, and work picnics – a bit of entertainment for people, and a way of drumming up business for the club. I vividly remember that display, because everyone there was so appreciative. The faces were mostly asian, which meant that they were very likely Vietnamese boat people – or queue jumpers, as they would be called now.
Now it is the Villawood Detention Centre, where illegal immigrants and those whose cases have not yet been reviewed are detained with no freedom of movement. Four Corners reported on it in 2001. It has improved since then, I think, but its a far cry from even the place I visited in 1980.
Hard to imagine an iconic Australian pop band emerging from there now.