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On 28 November 1947, 843 displaced persons from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia arrived in Fremantle. The migrants were young, fit and single, making them ideal workers to strengthen post-war Australian industry and society. On arrival, displaced persons had to complete alien registration forms, and later to submit updates to the government in circumstances such as marriage or a change of address. Displaced persons were transported in decommissioned American troop ships and accommodated in ex-military barracks in Australia. The conditions were often threadbare and uncomfortable. Additionally, the refugees faced mental and emotional challenges such as disconnection from family and cultural heritage, poverty and the effects of war. On the other hand, there was the hope of a better future in Australia, away from conflict and in a more financially secure environment. Displaced persons were obliged to work in jobs allocated by the Commonwealth for 2 years, receiving the same pay and conditions as Australian workers. Their previous skills, qualifications and professions were generally disregarded, with male displaced persons marked for work as labourers and women as domestics between 1947 and 1952. On arrival, only about 1 in 10 displaced persons had any knowledge of English. In 1948 the Adult Migrant Education Program was established to provide free English classes to these migrants. Other programs were intended to assist migrants to assimilate into the Australian community. The government’s intention was for all these refugees to take Australian citizenship, which many did. The government promoted its settlement programs for displaced persons to the general public as well as to potential migrants. The government aimed to allay fears that displaced persons would ‘take’ jobs from Australians, show that they were accommodated in economical conditions and promote an image of friendly migrants who would be assets to the Australian community.

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