The photographs in the collection have been grouped into categories that tell the story of immigration to Australia. Find out more about each category here, or explore the collection

Apex Sponsorship

Launched in 1957, the popular Bring out a Briton campaign urged Australian residents to nominate their British friends and families for assisted passages. Apex Clubs around Australia arranged jobs, accommodation and community events to welcome Britons travelling under the scheme.

Australia House Migration Room 502

The Australian government provided English classes and other services to assist migrants. Basic English training was free in hostels, schools and by correspondence. The Commonwealth Employment Service, established in 1946, set up offices in migrant reception centres to find employment for new arrivals.

The introduction of a telephone interpreter service in 1974 and the establishment of local Migrant Resource Centres from 1976 provided diverse settlement services especially to non-English speaking migrants. SBS started broadcasting in the late 1970s.

The Department of Immigration publicised its services in brochures to encourage migration to Australia and to also reassure Australians that new settlers would easily settle into Australian life.

Australian Citizenship and Naturalisation Ceremonies

The Australian government encouraged migrants to take Australian citizenship, believing that large numbers of naturalised migrants showed the success of the immigration program. Formal ceremonies were introduced in 1949 to highlight the importance of becoming an Australian citizen.

Migrants became naturalised for varied reasons. Most displaced persons embraced Australian citizenship as hopes for returning to their homelands faded. For many migrants, citizenship was a way to express loyalty and gratitude to Australia. British migrants had the least incentive as they could enter or leave Australia on their British passports.

The Australian government promoted citizenship through media coverage of ceremonies and leaflets publicising the benefits of being a naturalised migrant.

Child Migration Schemes and Migrant Child Care

In the years following World War II, a popular immigration slogan was ‘the child, the best immigrant’. Children constituted a particularly attractive category of migrant because they were seen to assimilate more easily, were more adaptable, had a long working life ahead and could be cheaply housed in dormitory style accommodation.

Between 1947 and 1953 over 3200 children migrated to Australia under approved schemes. About 100 of these children were Maltese while the remainder came from the United Kingdom.

Churches and Religion in the Migrant Community

Before World War II, Australians were overwhelmingly Christians, either Protestant or Catholic. Post-war migration diversified religious practices and architecture in Australia. Jewish and other European migrants added to Australia’s diversity. Arrivals from Asian and Middle Eastern countries since the 1970s increased the number of followers of the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim faiths.

The photographs in the collection reflect the significant role played by church and religious organisations in supporting migrant communities.

Ethnic Festivals, Arts and Crafts

Migrants established clubs and groups to maintain cultural ties with their homeland and to help others adjust to life in Australia. Some felt lonely and isolated, particularly in rural areas. Clubs offered them a place to socialise and to find support.

Festivals like Immigration Week gave migrants the opportunity to sing, dance and play music in national costume. Migrants were also invited to showcase their cultural heritage at arts festivals and celebrations such as Moomba in Melbourne. The collection features photographs of special performances, arts and crafts stalls, and events held by national clubs.

Ethnic Groups and Clubs

Migrants established clubs and groups to maintain cultural ties with their homeland and to help others adjust to life in Australia. Some felt lonely and isolated, particularly in rural areas. Clubs offered them a place to socialise and to find support.

Festivals like Immigration Week gave migrants the opportunity to sing, dance and play music in national costume. Migrants were also invited to showcase their cultural heritage at arts festivals and celebrations such as Moomba in Melbourne. The collection features photographs of special performances, arts and crafts stalls, and events held by national clubs.

Good Neighbour Movement, Good Neighbour Council and New Settlers League

The Good Neighbour Movement was established by the Australian government in 1949 to help migrants settle into the Australian way of life. Volunteers welcomed migrants into the local community, introduced them to schools, health centres, banks and shops, and gave advice on learning English.

Initially most efforts were directed to helping British migrants. However, by the 1960s councils included many overseas-born volunteers, who could offer assistance to non-English speaking migrants.

The collection features photographs of some of the many migrants who local Good Neighbour councils assisted.

Historical Milestones and Prominent Persons

The Australian government publicly celebrated historical events. Significant milestones like the arrival of the millionth post-war migrant in 1955 and the 100,000th Dutch migrant in 1958 were comprehensively documented and deliberately contrived to stimulate interest in potential migrants.

The signing of migration and shipping agreements, and meetings of the Immigration Advisory Council were also captured by official photographers for publicity purposes.

The collection also includes photographs of major events attended by Governors-General, Prime Ministers, Members of Parliament, and visiting overseas dignitaries.

Hostels, Holding, State Reception, and Detention Centres

Migrant reception centres and hostels were established to accommodate the vast numbers of displaced persons and assisted migrants who arrived in Australia after World War II. Most of the early centres were set up in former army and air force camps. The accommodation was basic with shared washing and eating facilities. Over time, the camps were phased out and new permanent brick buildings were built.

Official photographers took thousands of photographs of the migrants who lived and worked in Australia’s hostels and migrant centres. Some centres featured in the collection include Bonegilla and Enterprise in Victoria, Wacol in Queensland, Graylands in Western Australia, Villawood and Scheyville in New South Wales, and Pennington in South Australia.

Mail Order Brides

Migrants developed vibrant and diverse communities across Australia. They established clubs and associations based on country or region of origin to give new arrivals a sense of belonging. One such initiative developed self-help groups for Filipina ‘mail order’ brides.

Migrant Arrivals and Transport Ships

Until the 1960s most migrants going to Australia faced a long journey by ship. Overcrowding was common on the converted wartime ships used to transport migrants in the early post-war years. Later, shipping companies began using large passenger liners with on-board facilities like swimming pools and cinemas.

Chartered flights for migrants were available from the late 1940s. Air travel had a profound impact on the immigration experience by significantly reducing the period between leaving home and arriving to a new life in Australia. Immigration department photographers recorded the experiences of thousands of migrants travelling to, and arriving in, Australia.

Migrant Education and Migrant Resource Centres

The Australian government provided English classes and other services to assist migrants. Basic English training was free in hostels, schools and by correspondence. The Commonwealth Employment Service, established in 1946, set up offices in migrant reception centres to find employment for new arrivals.

The introduction of a telephone interpreter service in 1974 and the establishment of local Migrant Resource Centres from 1976 provided diverse settlement services especially to non-English speaking migrants. SBS started broadcasting in the late 1970s.

The Department of Immigration publicised its services in brochures to encourage migration to Australia and to also reassure Australians that new settlers would easily settle into Australian life.

Migrant School Children and Students

The Australian government provided English classes and other services to assist migrants. Basic English training was free in hostels, schools and by correspondence.

The Department of Immigration publicised its services in brochures to encourage migration to Australia and to also reassure Australians that new settlers would easily settle into Australian life.

Migrants at Leisure

Leisure activities provided a positive opportunity for publicity. Freedom to enjoy leisure time was a factor that the government emphasised.

Australia’s environment features as a drawcard, including beaches, mountains, rivers and bush. Many migrants photographed are shown enjoying Australia’s outdoors activities such as boating, water-skiing, relaxing at the beach, skiing and other hobbies. They are seen making the most of opportunities and working in the leisure industry. The photographs also imply that prospective migrants would be prosperous enough with leisure time to pursue their interests.

Through participating in local activities migrants shared popular community interests.

Migrants in Cities and Towns

The Department of Immigration publicised the facilities and employment opportunities in cities and towns with labour shortages to encourage migrants to settle in these areas. Towns in remote areas were shown to offer open spaces, affordable lifestyles and opportunities to work in the outback. Modern shopping centres and schools were often used to attract migrants to Australia’s expanding industrial cities and regional centres.

Some of the places photographed include Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Elizabeth and Coober Pedy in South Australia, Gladstone and Redcliffe in Queensland, Port Hedland in Western Australia, Geelong in Victoria and Port Kembla in New South Wales.

Migrants in Employment

Migrant workers played an important part in creating economic development and prosperity in post-war Australia. They provided the labour necessary to expand Australia’s steel, coal and manufacturing industries and to complete major engineering and construction projects like the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme (1949–74). Many opened small businesses associated with food or a trade, while others found work in factories, on farms, and in some professions.

The Department of Immigration regularly publicised stories of happy migrant workers. However, not all found ideal employment. Their skills and qualifications were not always recognised, they were sometimes underpaid and employed in dangerous jobs in remote areas.

Migrants in Sport, the Arts and Entertainment

The Department of Immigration frequently publicised migrants who made valuable contributions to Australia in sport, entertainment, arts and crafts.

Migrants embraced Australia’s strong sporting tradition in fields such as cricket and swimming but also introduced new sports and games. The collection features hundreds of photographs of new arrivals excelling in various sports including soccer, gymnastics, cycling and table tennis.

The photographs also showcase significant and diverse contributions made to Australian performing and visual arts, including music, dance, theatre and television.

Migrants in the Australian Armed Services

The Australian government encouraged skilled British and European ex-servicemen and women to join the Australian defence services. Migrants who did not have military experience could also join if they became Australian citizens. By 1958 migrants from 22 different countries were enlisted in the Australian Army.

Between 1957 and 1971, official photographers took about 100 photographs of migrants working in the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. Many were employed in specialist areas such as the Special Air Service, the First Armoured Regiment and the Royal Australian Corps of Signals.

Migrants in the Community

Migrants developed vibrant and diverse communities across Australia. They established clubs and associations based on country or region of origin to give new arrivals a sense of belonging. To maintain their cultural heritage, club members organised activities ranging from picnics to sporting events, festivals and celebration of national days. Service clubs also actively supported migrants.

Many migrants also gained respect and influence in the general community. The collection features photographs of migrants who were elected to local government, made significant contributions to charity, and played an active role in sponsoring families to settle in Australia.

Migrants in their Homes

Many migrants eventually built their own homes. Most adopted designs typically found in Australian cities and towns. However, some introduced new styles by importing prefabricated houses and decorations from their homeland.

Government publicists frequently used photographs of migrants living in large homes with modern kitchens and laundries, and big back yards with vegetable gardens, entertaining areas and swimming pools. These images were presented to potential migrants to show they could also share in Australia’s post-war prosperity and own their own home.

Minister for Immigration

Hundreds of photographs record the promotional activities of the various ministers for immigration. These range from greeting milestone migrants and attending ethnic festivals to taking promotional world tours to encourage immigration.

Ministers represented in the collection include: Arthur Calwell (1945–49), Harold Holt (1949–56), Athol Townley (1956–58), Alexander Downer (1958–63), Hubert Opperman (1963–66), Billy Snedden (1966–69), Phillip Lynch (1969–71), Jim Forbes (1971–72), Al Grassby (1972–74), Michael McKellar (1975–79), Ian Macphee (1979–82), John Hodges (1982–83), Stewart West (1983–84), Chris Hurford (1984–87), Mick Young (1987–88), and Clyde Holding (1988).

Passport and Travel Document Forgery

The Australian government provided English classes and other services to assist migrants. Basic English training was free in hostels, schools and by correspondence. The Commonwealth Employment Service, established in 1946, set up offices in migrant reception centres to find employment for new arrivals.

The introduction of a telephone interpreter service in 1974 and the establishment of local Migrant Resource Centres from 1976 provided diverse settlement services especially to non-English speaking migrants. SBS started broadcasting in the late 1970s.

The Department of Immigration publicised its services in brochures to encourage migration to Australia and to also reassure Australians that new settlers would easily settle into Australian life.

Promotional Activities, Publications and Launches

The Department of Immigration directed extensive resources to publicity and regularly arranged public events and other activities both overseas and in Australia.

Immigration publicity overseas often featured migrant success stories to attract new settlers, while highlighting in Australia the valuable contribution migrants made to society, to gain national support for immigration.

The collection includes photographs of window displays, immigration exhibits and information evenings, and examples of advertising posters and brochures used to encourage migration.

Refugees

Of the seven million people who migrated to Australia since 1945, nearly 700,000 arrived as displaced persons or refugees. Official photographers documented the Australian government’s humanitarian efforts in hundreds of photographs of refugees arriving and settling in Australia.

In 1946 the United Nations established the International Refugee Organization to manage the refugee crisis created by World War II. Between 1947 and 1953 Australia resettled more than 170,000 refugees under the Displaced Persons Program.

From the 1970s Australia began accepting large numbers of non-European refugees. Initially, most refugees during this time came from the war-torn Indo-Chinese countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Later, refugees also arrived from South America and Africa.

Telephone Interpreter Service

The Australian government provided English classes and other services to assist migrants. Basic English training was free in hostels, schools and by correspondence. The Commonwealth Employment Service, established in 1946, set up offices in migrant reception centres to find employment for new arrivals.

The introduction of a telephone interpreter service in 1974 and the establishment of local Migrant Resource Centres from 1976 provided diverse settlement services especially to non-English speaking migrants. SBS started broadcasting in the late 1970s.

The Department of Immigration publicised its services in brochures to encourage migration to Australia and to also reassure Australians that new settlers would easily settle into Australian life.

The 'Bring Out A Briton' (BOAB) migration scheme

In 1945 Australia negotiated an assisted passage scheme with the British government that operated for 30 years. The Department of Immigration ran comprehensive promotional campaigns in both Britain and Australia to maintain a steady flow of British migrants during this time.

Launched in 1957, the popular Bring out a Briton campaign urged Australian residents to nominate their British friends and families for assisted passages. Local Bring out a Briton committees were formed around Australia to assist sponsors and to recommend applicants to the Department of Immigration. Official photographers recorded the arrival of hundreds of migrants under the Bring out a Briton campaign and other schemes for British migrants.

The Regularisation of Status Program (ROSP)

The Regularisation of Status Program (ROSP) gave temporary residents a final opportunity to apply for permanent residence before changes in migration laws come into effect.