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.
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.
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.