• Photograph si514
  • Photograph si515

Construction began on the Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme on 17 October 1949. Immigration officers initially targeted European men with engineering and construction skills for employment on the scheme. With 98% of the infrastructure underground - requiring tunnelling through solid granite - working conditions were tough. The freezing mountainous environment was remote and without established communities, which added to the loneliness of living vast distances from friends and family in Europe. A number of workers bought out their contracts to return to their countries of origin when the work environment and the stress of separation from family became too much. 

For other migrants, working on the scheme was an opportunity for a new life. A sense of community developed out of hardships shared and challenges overcome. The towns around the scheme grew, schools and restaurants were established and families took advantage of the outdoor activities available, including snow sports and bushwalking. Many of the migrants who came to work on the scheme - from 30 countries in total - continue to call Australia home. 

Story details

National Archives
Country of origin: 
Share on social media: