Post-War Immigration:1945 -1960s *WHY? In the immediate post-war years the Chifley Labor Govt felt it was urgent for Australia to increase its population (then about 7 million) by 2%/year for 2 main reasons:

  1. for defence and security
  2. for economic growth, development of industry and improving infrastructure

*WHO and HOW?
The Immigration minister in the post-war era (before the Menzies victory of 1949) was Arthur Calwell. He introduced schemes to attract thousands of migrants to Australia.
1. From Great Britain: At this time, Australia still viewed itself as an Anglo/Christian nation and looked firstly to Great Britain as a source of immigrants. Calwell introduced the Assisted Immigration Scheme_(or Assisted Passage) as a way of making it easy for British citizens to come to Australia. Passage was only 10 Pounds per adult. Read some of their stories here.The only condition was that these migrants .had to commit to staying and working in Australia for two years.
Many young singles and couples were glad to move to Australia because of the struggles and hardships of post-war Britain.Targets for immigration however, were not being met and the government, for the first time, looked outside Britain for migrants.

2. Refugees from post-war WW2 Europe: The International Refugee Organization was seeking to relocate up to 10 000 000 refugees, many of whose homelands had come under the control of Communist USSR. Calwell agreed that Australia should accept 12 000 /year from the Baltic States of Eastern Europe, as part of its humanitarian response to the problem. The IRO provided the transport and the Australian Government provided housing and support, if the refugee agreed to stay in Australia for at least two years.
assisted immigrants arrive in Australia in 1950
assisted immigrants arrive in Australia in 1950
Look at these sources provided by one refugee family from Germany.
This website explores the experiences of a refugee family that escaped from Poland after it fell to Communist rule - worth a good look.
3. Assisted Immigrants from wider Europe: Over the late 40s, 50s and 60s patterns of immigration changed as Assisted Passage agreements were made with e Germany, Hungary, Greece, Italy and Lebanon. These non-English speaking migrants were encouraged to assimilate, but often met prejudice.
The Departnment of Immigration website will give you more detail.
More sources here.
The Government went to some effort with campaigns to encourage Australians to welcome new migrants.
Learn more here.

Investigate web sites - such as this one about Villawood Migrant Centre -and Chapter 8 of Retro Two, to describe the experiences of migrants in their first years in this country. Answer these questions:
  1. What were their living conditions like in the migrant hostels?
  2. How were they encouraged and aided to assimilate?
  3. What difficulties did they have?
  4. What types of work did they do?
  5. What additional problems did non-English speaking migrants face?
Add any other interesting facts or information you learnt.

One major employer of “new Australians” was the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric scheme, begun by the Chifley Government in 1946 and completed 25 years later. It employed over 70% migrant labour, who came from over 30 nations. Select some of these films to view.Watch this short video from the period..

* What trends do these figures show about numbers of migrants coming to Australia? Approximately how many migrants arrive each decade?
  • 1.6 million between October 1945 and 30 June 1960;
  • about 1.3 million in the 1960s;
  • about 960.000 in the 1970s;
  • about 1.1 million in the 1980s; and
  • over 900,000 in the 1990s.

Settler arrivals by top 10 countries of birth


July 1949 - June 1959
July 1959 - June 1970

United Kingdom & Ireland

419,946 (33.5%)
654,640 (45.3%)


201,428 (16.1%)
150,669 (10.4%)

New Zealand

29,649 (2.4%)
30,341 (2.1%)


162,756 (13.0%)
50,452 (3.5%)


55,326 (4.4%)
124,324 (8.6%)


not in top 10
94,555 (6.5%)


100,970 (8.1%)
36,533 (2.5%)


38,113 (3.0%)
28,916 (2.0%)


33,730 (2.7%)
not in top 10


16,982 (1.4%)
20,467 (1.4%)


13,430 (1.1%)
not in top 10


not in top 10
17,611 (1.2%)

Top Ten Total

1,072,330 (85.6%)
1,208,508 (83.6%)


180,753 (14.4%)
236,848 (16.4%)

Total Settler Arrivals


  1. Which 2 nations began to arrive in much larger numbers after 1960?
  2. From which nations did far fewer migrants arrive after 1960?
  3. Can you explain these changes?


The official Government policy from 1945 into the 1960s was ASSIMILATION. This meant the Government believed immigrants should adapt to and adopt Australian culture as quickly as possible. Government organizations funded schemes to assist migrants to do so. They provided English language and culture lessons, and ran campaigns to encourage communities to accept and appreciate and welcome their migrant neighours. The Government formed Good Neighbour Councils in major towns to help "New Australians" settle in.
Figure 17.5: Good Neighbour Council group in their national costumes waiting to greet Princess Alexandra, in Wangaratta, 1959.
Figure 17.5: Good Neighbour Council group in their national costumes waiting to greet Princess Alexandra, in Wangaratta, 1959.

Some groups assimilated better than others. As large numbers continued to arrive, it became clear many groups wanted to keep their culture and live near each other. During the 1960s Governments moved toward a policy of INTEGRATION - i.e. - accepting and including national and ethnic differences into our communities.
Find out at more at these sites:
real life immigrant stories
facts from the Dept of Immigration
10 pound poms
displaced persons
migrant hostel life
watch a film clip from this selection e.g Snowy..choose films made in the 50s/60s

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