Dr Klaus Neumann

Frederick Watson Fellow 2001

Topic: A study of Australia's treatment of refugees prior to the formulation of an explicit refugee policy in 1977
Dr Neumann presented his findings in three public lectures:
(a) at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra on 26 March 2002
(b) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney on 17 April 2002
(c) at Swinburne University in Melbourne on 11 July 2002

Biographical note

Klaus Neumann is an independent scholar who has written extensively about the history and culture of Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Germany. Among his publications are Not the Way It Really Was (1992), Rabaul Yu Swit Moa Yet (1996) and Shifting Memories: The Nazi Past in New Germany (2000). His book, In the Interest of National Security, examining National Archives records relating to the internment of civilians in Australia during World War II, won the John and Patricia Ward History Prize for the use of archives in writing history at the 2007 NSW Premiers History Awards.

Outcome

Dr Neumann's fellowship research topic dealt with Australia's treatment of refugees prior to the formulation of an explicit refugee policy in 1977. He considered three case studies:

  • internment of German and Austrian refugees during World War II
  • acceptance of refugees from Trieste, Italy between 1953 and 1957
  • acceptance of refugees from Irian Jaya who crossed into Papua and New Guinea between 1961 and 1969

Abstracts

(a) Dr Neumann's first lecture concerned the Australian response to the refugee exodus triggered by the Indonesian takeover of Dutch New Guinea in the early 1960s. A revised version of this lecture was published under the title 'Asylum seekers and "Non-political native refugees" in Papua and New Guinea' in Australian Historical Studies, vol. 33, no. 120, October 2002, pp. 359–72.

(b) In the second half of the 1930s, several thousand refugees from Germany and Austria emigrated to Australia. After the outbreak of World War II, they were classed as enemy aliens. Many of them were interned. Dr Neumann's second lecture introduced some of these internees and addressed the question of why they were conceived as potential threats to Australia's security.

(c) In his third lecture, Dr Neumann discussed Australian responses to refugees from the late 1930s to the mid-1960s. A revised version of this lecture was published under the title 'Providing a "home for the oppressed"? Historical perspectives on Australian responses to refugees' in the Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 9, no. 2, December 2003, pp. 1–25.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014