British migrant stories come out of the vault

Media release: Monday, 26 August 2013

British migrants heading for Adelaide on the Straithaird in 1954 were in for a shock when they reached Australia. An outbreak of smallpox on board meant they were all quarantined in Fremantle instead of being free to discover the delights of their new home.

This is just one of the stories about British migrants that National Archives staff have unearthed to share at their upcoming talk on Thursday 29 August.

'Because British migrants didn't have to apply for citizenship or visas, people often assume we hold less information on them than for other European migrants,' said Nick Gleghorn, Director of the National Archives' Adelaide office. 'But there are so many stories relating to British migration that people can discover in our collection.'

'Files about the 'Bring out a Briton' campaign show how some migrant stories were used to promote the success of the assisted passage scheme. However some also contain letters that reveal the problems migrants faced, especially if their search for housing and jobs was at odds with the rosy picture that had attracted them to cross the world.'

Between 1945 and 1983 over 1 million British migrants came to Australia under the government's assisted passage scheme. Popularly known as 'Ten Pound Poms' (the cost of the passage was £10 for adults, free for children), these migrants came in search of sun, outdoor living and opportunities.

The National Archives will show how family historians and other researchers can uncover a wealth of information relating to British migrants. Records in the collection include migrant selection documents, passenger arrival lists, nominal rolls, migrant hostel registers and photos (including Gepps Cross and Smithfield), 'Bring out a Briton' case files, applications for citizenship and electoral rolls.

As well as showing attendees how to use the National Archives online database, staff will also demonstrate the website Destination: Australia which encourages people to identify family and friends among the 20,000 photographs of immigrants to Australia.

The talk A new life in Australia, all for ten pounds? is on Thursday 29 August from 10.30 to 11.30 am at the South Australian Archives Centre, 26 – 28 Leigh Street, Adelaide. The session is free but bookings are essential on (08) 8204 8787 or adelaideevents@naa.gov.au.

Contact information

  • Nick Gleghorn (Manager, State Office South Australia)
    t (08) 8204 8814 m 0408 620 872
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014