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Marketing Migrants

Marketing Migrants

Minister for Immigration Arthur Calwell with the 50,000th European displaced person to arrive in Australia following the end of World War II, 1949.
Minister for Immigration Arthur Calwell with the 50,000th European displaced person to arrive in Australia following the end of World War II, 1949. Courtesy, National Library of Australia, Neg. 00001627

In 1945, the Australian Government formed the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. Its role was to oversee the nation's ambitious post-war migration program, itself a response to the belief that Australia was vulnerable to invasion.

Prior to the Second World War, Prime Minister Billy Hughes had voiced concerns about declining birth rates and urged Australians to 'populate or perish'. Arthur Calwell later used this phrase to promote European immigration.

Horizons described the mood of the times through images and historical material. It showed government ministers greeting new arrivals at the docks and introduced us to individuals carefully selected to present a positive face of migration to the public.

Overall, Horizons was a strong reminder that the debate about Australia's size and population is not a new one.

Migrant processing

Arrival of Barbara Porritt (& Dennis Porritt), the Millionth Migrant, 1955 (56/11/1-3) National Archives of Australia, Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs photographic archive A12111
Arrival of Barbara Porritt (& Dennis Porritt), the Millionth Migrant, 1955
National Archives of Australia, Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs photographic archive A12111 (56/11/1/-3)

Department of Immigration officers selected the most appropriate migrants, ensuring they possessed useful skills and were medically fit. Standards for the personal health of prospective migrants were high. Promotional photographs reassured Australians that the country was being well protected against 'undesirables', and suggested that there was nothing to fear from large-scale migration.

The numbers game

In migration publicity campaigns, events were staged around the achievement of numerical targets. Chance had little to do with these targets. Individuals were carefully chosen by departmental officials to present a particular face of migration to the Australian public.

 

Top photo: Vassiliki Dalfou cooking in her home in Epiros, Greece, 1961, Bottom photo: Vassiliki Dalfou working in a Sydney hospital, 1962.
Top: Vassiliki Dalfou working in Epiros, Greece, 1961, Bottom: Vassiliki Dalfou working in a Sydney hospital, 1962. Top photo: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, A12111 62/4/43 (1412): Bottom photo: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, A12111 62/4/44 (1413)

Millionth migrant

Australia celebrated the arrival of the millionth migrant, Barbara Porritt, a 21-year-old who came from England to Australia in 1955. A newlywed, she represented youth, beauty and promise of the future.

Learning at sea

As Australia began to look to countries other than Britain for migrants, the Department of Immigration produced literature to help the new Australians adapt. A booklet on display in Horizons helped migrants learn English en route to Australia.

Old and new lives

Before and after shots such as the ones of Vassiliki Daflou were taken to remind everyone that migration was a good thing. In Horizons, photographs showed this young Greek woman, in traditional dress, stirring a pot in her home in Greece in 1961.

The bottom image was taken one year later at her workplace in a Sydney hospital. It shows her looking modern and happy. Daflou migrated to Australia after taking English lessons and training as a domestic servant.