Online migrant photos and stories enrich the Australian story

Media release: Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The National Archives is encouraging post-war migrants and their descendants to search for familiar faces and share their own stories online in its new website Destination: Australia – sharing our post-war migrant stories. The site was launched on Monday evening by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Migration Council Australia's inaugural Migration and Settlement Awards.

The website contains more than 20,000 photographs of post-war migrants from various countries, many portraying them in the workforce or participating in other aspects of community life. Others include arrivals, citizenship ceremonies, festivals, migrant centres and new places of worship.

'As a post-World War II migrant, I'm very proud to launch Destination: Australia. It is a wonderful record of the vital contribution of post-war migrants,' said Prime Minister Gillard.

The images, taken by government photographers for the Department of Immigration (and Citizenship) between 1946 and 1999 to record the arrival and settlement of migrants, are preserved in the National Archives' collection.

'We believe it is important to share these images with the people of Australia and so we have digitised them and also created this website,' said National Archives Director-General David Fricker, whose own family has first-hand migration experience.

'We're hoping those who arrived after World War II will add their own memories to the website to create a rich and diverse view of our nation's migration history. This was a period of great growth for Australia and everyone will have different experiences and perceptions of events,' said Mr Fricker.

The photographs were used to promote Australia as a prosperous and welcoming nation to potential migrants and to reassure the public that new migrants would readily settle into the Australian way of life. The website stories are a reminder of the heartache people faced in leaving their homeland and the courage they needed to travel across the world.

'I suspect the things that led my own parents to emigrate in the 1960s were not so very different from the hopes and dreams of all who have made the journey. In the vaults of the National Archives are some remarkable records: records that tell of thousands upon thousands of these hopes and dreams,' said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister said the National Archives' records and the stories shared on the website help to show how 'together we have built a nation that strives to be classless, confident and compassionate, a country that has been enriched by the hand of welcome each generation holds out to those who come after us.'

Mr Fricker said the National Archived wants to ensure that the voices of as many migrants as possible come through loud and clear as they share their own stories, whether or not they were captured on film.

'These stories add a rich layer of knowledge to our nation's recorded history and help every Australian understand and value the many strands of our heritage that, woven together, have created this nation of ours,' he said.

'The National Archives, as a national collecting institution, holds the memory of our nation and tells our stories. Online projects such as Destination: Australia, which provide interactive ways to access and explore our history, wonderfully illustrate the importance of the Australian Government's Creative Australia national cultural policy.'

Website information

The website can be viewed at www.destinationaustralia.gov.au. It is part of a larger National Archives project to collect stories that will enrich a new touring exhibition A Ticket to Paradise?: lives and experiences of Australia's post-World War II migrants.

The exhibition will explore the experiences of the individuals, couples and families who migrated after World War II, as well as examine the Australian Government's post-war immigration policies and promotional campaigns, through the presentation of documents, photographs and footage recorded by the Department of Immigration. The exhibition will feature personal stories,  many drawn from the Destination: Australia website. It is scheduled to open in March 2014.

The National Archives of Australia acknowledges and thanks its partner, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, for its support in developing Destination: Australia.

Contact information

  • Shaun Rohrlach (Director, Communications and Programs)
    t (02) 6212 3990 m 0434 664 621 e shaun.rohrlach@naa.gov.au
  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
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