Panel 11: Closure and Lost Opportunity
For the first eleven years occupancy levels at Enterprise were steady.
January 1971 - March 1975: average 950 - 1000
June 1979: 900
January 1982: 950 – 420 Vietnamese, 180 British, 13 other nationalities
In 1983 the Government decided to reduce the length of stay for families from twelve months to six months. This severely impacted upon their ability to save for setting up a home. The community predicted that the shortened period would also have a negative effect on the settlement of future residents into the area. Two Springvale councillors and a worker from the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau went to Canberra to present their concerns to the Minister for Immigration but the new arrangements remained in place.
As the community had predicted by June 1984 the number of residents had reduced to 495.
When it was rumoured that Enterprise was to close a public protest meeting was organised for 7 October, 1985. Three hundred people attended. Despite the protests and further Council delegations to the Minister the hostel closure was announced on 30 October, with the promise, however, that it would reopen after refurbishment. It was not until December 1988 that Enterprise eventually did open, but without the promised upgrading. The number of residents still continued to decline.
In June 1991 the Commonwealth Employment Service closed its Enterprise office. Unemployment rates were high and people were encouraged to attend English classes rather than look for work. As a result there were long waiting lists for English classes.
By March 1992 there were only 139 residents from seven different countries. By May 1992 there were only 120. In August 1992 the position of director was withdrawn and a part-time acting manager was appointed on a two days a week basis. The Medicare office had already closed and Social Security was open only three days a week.
In October of that year, the government announced a review of all hostels. When it appeared that Enterprise’s closure as a migrant hostel was inevitable, the Springvale community lobbied for a community-based use of the site This was to include a cultural arts and activities centre, as well as public and private housing. This proposal was presented to the government but rejected.
Enterprise finally closed on 22 December 1995 and in the end the property was sold to Prime Life, a private residential village developer.
“The recent Federal Government decision to reduce the maximum length of time a family may stay in the Migrant Centre to five months must create intolerable living conditions for many households.” -City of Springvale submission to the Federal Government
“It was surreal. There was only me. It was like a ghost town, a place completely empty where only a few days earlier the office had been full. Such a contrast between the bed of roses which had always been so welcoming and the emptiness of the place gave a feeling of abandonment.” -Adam Warzel, last Hostel Manager
“People needed an anchor, which is more than they get now.” - Sandra Moore, hostel nurse
“The times when we did not desire to return to life in the hostel were during the times we had to fall in line for the shower or to eat. If we arrived late it meant not having food. However when the hostel closed, I felt it very much.” - Dona Juana, El Salvadorian resident
“I feel sad when I leave the Enterprise Hostel because it was my first home in Australia. Even though it is no longer there whenever I drive past it always appears in my mind.” - Hue Tran, Vietnamese resident
“Enterprise provided a nurturing environment which allowed people to gradually settle in”.
Peter Jarrett, Settlement Worker
Top: Enterprise deserted.
Bottom Left: AMES moved to other venues.
Bottom Right: Department of Immigration staff says farewell to Enterprise in their newsletter.