Migrant selection documents held in Canberra – Fact sheet 66

Post-World War II migration policies

Following World War II, Australia took advantage of the instability and insecurity in Europe, and some Asian countries, to encourage refugees and displaced persons to migrate to Australia. Populating Australia was seen as a way of ensuring our safety and guaranteeing our future. It was argued that increasing our population would make Australia a less likely target for invasion.

Many intending migrants applied for assisted passage to Australia. These applications and the associated documents are known as 'migrant selection documents'. The National Archives in Canberra has large holdings of these documents.

Similar records for assisted migrants who arrived in Australia before World War II may be held by the State Government archives for the state of arrival.

Contents of migrant selection documents

Personal information on individual migrants found in migrant selection documents usually consists of name, nationality, date and place of birth, spouse (if any), names of children (if any), and trade/occupation/training summary. Many include passport sized photographs. On some documents, names of next-of-kin or parents are included. Other information is limited to travel, accommodation and medical details.

The table below lists the main series of migrant selection documents held in Canberra.

Migrant selection documents held in Canberra

Migration case files

Case files for unassisted migrants since 1945 are usually located in the main Department of Immigration correspondence series and the migration case files series of various overseas posts (such as Rome, Athens or Bonn). The files generally contain documentation relevant to the person or person applying for a migration visa to Australia, including a personal particulars form (full name, date and place of birth, nationality, address, name of spouse and children, trade/occupation, medical reports, and names and dates of birth of parents); passport-sized photo(s); passport details; and various forms, but predominantly, application for entry of residence form (Form M47).

Search the collection to identify series by conducting keyword searches using 'migrant' or 'migration', or by searching for series created by the relevant post. The table below lists a selection of migration case file series held in Canberra.

Migration case files held in Canberra

Displaced Persons program

In 1947 Australia agreed to include in its migration program people living in camps in Germany who had been brought from their occupied homelands in eastern and central Europe during World War II to work in German industry, or who had fled their homes in the face of occupation, and after the war were unable or unwilling to return. Between 1947 and 1953 Australia received over 170,000 migrants from this source under the ‘Displaced Persons’ program.

Search the collection to find migrant selection documents for those who arrived as displaced persons. The records are arranged in nominal roll order for each voyage or airflight to Australia. The item details include the full name and date of birth of each person. Where a number of people listed on a nominal roll have been identified as a family group a single entry has been made that lists the names and birth dates of each person in the group. Searches using the names of migrants should identify relevant records. Remember to use variations in the spelling of names if the expected result is not returned.

The records for each voyage or airflight have been arranged into separate series. Consult the information in the series notes for records you are interested in to find the name of the ship, dates of the voyage and related information.

Other sources for post-World War II migration

Collections of migrant selection documents are also held by National Archives offices in Perth and Adelaide.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019