Panel 3: Life at Enterprise
Enterprise had a range of services to assist the residents. A welfare officer, a youth worker, a housing officer, a full time nurse, a maternal and child care nurse, a child care centre, the Commonwealth Employment Service, a Social Security office, a bank and a milk bar were all on site.
Initially Kingston Sanatorium and later Fairfield Hospital’s Environmental Health Unit carried out full health checks on residents, including X-rays for TB. Local doctors also attended Enterprise on a regular basis. In late 1985 Enterprise closed temporarily. When it reopened in 1988 local doctors gave the on-arrival health checks. Some of doctors worked closely with the newly established Foundation for Survivors of Torture and Trauma.
In the early years Enterprise was a major source of labour for the local manufacturing industry. People from Nissan and General Motors Holden came each morning with placards indicating how many women and men they wanted to employ in their factories.
Casual work was also available illegally when residents were taken by bus, supplied by middlemen, to market gardens where they were paid in cash for their day’s work. The pay was low and after the residents had paid their fares there was very little left.
Many women would not have been able to attend English classes were it not for the child care centre. The centre was initially run by Commonwealth Accommodation & Catering Services but when Enterprise re-opened in 1988 it was run by the YWCA. Child care staff were often recruited from the residents to enable better play and communication with the children.
Youth workers provided activities from 4.00pm – 10pm. During school holidays the young people were taken on excursions to places like Healesville Sanctuary. Teachers, churches and community groups also provided outings.
Enterprise had indoor and outdoor recreation areas including pool and table tennis facilities, tennis courts, an oval and playground. The residents brought soccer to Enterprise. Some Melbourne soccer clubs were established from the matches held there each weekend between the various migrant hostels. The Enterprise team was called Colo-Colo.
Social activities were organised by the residents, the recreation officer or people from the outside community.
When residents were ready to leave the hostel the Housing Officer gave information and assisted people to find suitable housing. Real estate agents came on Saturdays to offer places to rent or buy.
“We had dances and Tupperware parties every week.” - Marie Clayton, England
“The Argentinians loved a party, but they got together to laugh and have fun, not to drink.” - Edit Martini, Argentina
“We had dances and the children dressed in traditional costumes. One time we had a special Chilean celebration on September 18th and Charlie the caretaker had to cut the electricity to stop the celebrations so we would go to bed.” - Sergio Valle, Chile
“Sport was the way to integrate the students - netball for the girls, soccer for the boys.” - Eric Mitchell, Westall Primary School Principal 1980-1987
“It was a very peaceful existence. People became like a family and ate and studied together.” -Mahmoud Yassin, Eritrean resident
“Some of the young women refused to breastfeed their children, believing their milk would not be good for their babies because they had not got ‘proper food’ in the refugee camps – that is fresh fruit and vegetables.” - Loraine Chessels, Maternal and child health nurse
“By 1986 a massive 62.7% of working Vietnamese were in the manufacturing sector. In 1991 Indo Chinese workers were still by and large employed where hostel employment officers directed them – in the factories where lack of recognised skills and poor English did not matter.” - Prof Lesley Anne Hawthorne, The University of Melbourne.
“I usually started work at 6.30 and left late at night but it was a privilege to work there. We all did extra bits. It was very rewarding and I never cooked when I went home because one of the families always gave me food when they cooked in their rooms.” - Kate Fisher, Director, Child care centre.
Top Left: Chess helped some people to relax;
Top Right: Families ate together in the dining room;
Bottom Left: The child care centre provided an essential service which enabled parents to work or attend english classes;
Bottom Right: Sports and other recreational activities were organised for children and teenagers.