Panel 2: First Impressions - We were safe
Most residents came to Melbourne by plane and were brought to Enterprise by bus. For many the feeling of finally arriving at the hostel was one of overwhelming relief and safety, although some experienced bewilderment, homesickness and anxiety.
Families could stay for 12 months, couples without children for six months, single people for three months. This provided the new arrivals with a sense of security while they oriented themselves in their new country. There were one-room units for childless couples and single people (who had to share), and family units.
No matter what time people arrived staff were usually in attendance. They were greeted, issued with linen and taken to their units. The weekly toilet tissue allowance was handed out at the same time – one roll for two people, two rolls for up to four people and three rolls for five people!
As soon as possible after arrival residents had an appointment with the welfare officer so they could be officially registered. But interpreters were not always available and there was often enormous confusion about names.
At this appointment the residents were given an information book titled Welcome to Enterprise. It contained important information about the hostel as well as Australian systems like, banks, schools, employment, maternal and child health nurses, churches and transport. It was only produced, however, in English.
In 1980 the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs became responsible for settlement information and bi-lingual information officers were employed to provide information sessions. But even then some of the basic information was missing for example, the difference between hot and cold taps.
“The day we came to heaven.” - You Horn Chea, Cambodian resident
“It was like heaven to us.” – Thu Nguyen, Vietnamese resident
“I arrived at the airport at 11.00pm and sat and waited. A cleaner put me in a taxi. At Enterprise a security person took me to a unit. I went to bed but didn’t sleep. I was too scared to go to the dining room for breakfast but when I did the room was full of Chileans. It was such a relief.” -Anon, Chilean resident
“On arrival at Sydney airport everyone had a coloured button pinned on him or her. This terrified many of the people, some thought that they were going to get sent back, some swapped buttons so that they had the same coloured ones as their families/friends.” Tony Medina, Chilean resident
“I remember waiting at 3.00 and 4.00 o’clock in the morning for people to arrive so I could give them their linen.” - Maria Villarroel, staff
“We wrote them (their names) down as they sounded. Nor did we understand that family names came first.” - Suzanne Cooper, Welfare Worker
“South American women were compelled to change their family name to that of their husband. We lost so many things and to lose our name was just too much.” - Geraldina Alvarez-Poblete, Chilean resident
“It was overwhelming. All the information was given at once and there was no flexibility. Single people and people without children were given information about child care services.” - Seda, Cambodian resident
“Concepts and words were difficult. Systems and words such as social security had no meaning, but service providers always presumed they were understood.” - Heng Phang, Welfare worker
Top Left: The Manager had his own table in the dining room and invited people to join him, the other staff and the residents had separate tables.
Top Right: Refugees were immediately given warm clothing.
Bottom: The administration office.