Migrant stories

Australia is a nation of migrants. In 2020, over 7.6 million people living in Australia had been born overseas.

There are many reasons why someone may choose to migrate. Some migrate voluntarily, looking for educational opportunities, work and a better life. Others, like refugees and asylum seekers, may have no choice but to leave their home countries to protect their safety.

Australia is a proudly multicultural country, but this wasn’t always the case. In the first half of the 20th century, many migrants to Australia were turned away under the discriminatory White Australia policy. The White Australia policy only ended in the 1970s.

Even today, migrants to Australia may face many challenges. These include learning a new language, finding work and a place to live, and adjusting to a new culture.

The stories shared on this page highlight a variety of migrant experiences, as told through the National Archives’ collection.

The Immigration Photographic Archive

Many of the photos featured in these stories come from the Immigration Photographic Archive. Between 1946 and 1999, government photographers took over 22,000 photos of migrants. They record the arrival and settlement of migrants in Australia after the Second World War. Migrants are shown at work, settling in their new homes and sharing their cultures with their new communities. 

These photos were used in newspapers, magazines, posters and displays in Australia and overseas. They promoted Australia as a welcoming nation to potential migrants. They were also used to reassure the Australian public that new migrants would easily settle in to the Australian way of life. 

You can explore the Immigration Photographic Archive, series A12111, on RecordSearch. 

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