A Greek girl sent across the world to marry a man she had never met, an African journalist fleeing for his life, and a stateless baby born in India to Iranian parents. These are just some of the human stories that feature in A Ticket to Paradise? opening Friday 8 March at the WA Shipwrecks Museum, Fremantle.
The new touring exhibition from the National Archives of Australia examines the rich diversity of Australian immigrants and the government’s ambitious plans after World War Two to encourage mass migration.
“The program transformed the nation socially, economically and culturally,” National Archives curator Tracey Clarke said.
“It has resulted in a community where, today, one quarter of our population was born overseas, and nearly half of us have at least one parent born elsewhere. While most people are aware of this aspect of our cultural heritage, many don’t realise the wealth of immigration history held by the National Archives, from personal and family stories to government campaigns and policies.
“In A Ticket to Paradise? we’ve tried to show that the migrant experience is as diverse as the seven million people who have arrived here from more than 200 different countries.”
Australia’s Department of Immigration was established in 1945 during the Chifley Government to encourage and select prospective immigrants and administer a large-scale immigration program to increase Australia’s population.
Western Australian Museum CEO Alec Coles said the exhibition reveals the human aspect of migration, with recordings of new and archival personal stories.
“These stories give an insight into the rich, complex and very different experiences of the migrants and refugees who have settled in Western Australia and throughout Australia,” he said.
“Dutch and Italian communities were prominent in post war European migration to Western Australia and each played a prominent role in the WA’s revival after wartime depression.”
The exhibition also examines promotional campaigns which presented a utopian view of Australia as a welcoming country full of opportunity.
“The government-run campaigns emphasised Australia’s climate, beaches, jobs and housing – a safe home after the atrocities of war,” said Ms Clarke.
“But they also aimed to allay fears that might arise on the home front.”
As well as film footage and audio recordings, the exhibition features many images of migrants taken by government photographers between the 1940s and 1990s to enhance and drive the campaigns.
The National Archives has partnered with the Department of Home Affairs to enable the exhibition to tour throughout Australia.
The National Archives and the Western Australian Museum are encouraging other post-war immigrants and their families to contribute their personal memories online at www.destinationaustralia.gov.au.
A Ticket to Paradise? will be on display at the WA Shipwrecks Museum from 8 March to 19 May 2019. For more information visit http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/shipwrecks/ticket-paradise.