About this record
This is a government bulletin that was published in Australia in 1948 by the newly formed Department of Immigration. The Australian Government used Tomorrow’s Australians to communicate information about its changed migration policy to the Australian public. In a range of articles, the booklet promotes the benefits that large numbers of new migrants will bring to the Australian community. It also describes the qualities associated with the migrants selected by the government under the new policies.
- Immediately after World War II, Prime Minister Ben Chifley launched a significant immigration program and established the first federal Department of Immigration. Chifley considered that Australia urgently needed to increase its population for reasons of economic development and national defence. His government popularised the slogan ‘populate or perish’. This slogan reflected a widely held belief that the war had exposed Australia’s inability—within existing population levels—to defend its own shores from invasion or attack.
- From the first year of Federation onwards, the Australian Parliament passed a series of laws to restrict immigration by non-European migrants. As a result, migration since Federation had remained predominantly British—apart from a significant intake of Greek and Italian people prior to the Great Depression.
- For many decades, Australia had provided free or assisted passages for UK residents to encourage British migrants to Australia. With its ‘populate or perish’ imperative after World War II, this scheme of assisted passages was extended to include ex-servicemen of the British Empire and the United States. Later the scheme also applied to ex-servicemen or resistance fighters from northern Europe: the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and Denmark.
- The immigration policy adopted in the years following World War II represented a significant departure from previous policies, because it allowed an expansion of the nationalities eligible for immigration to Australia. In the years following World War II Australia established formal migration agreements with the UK, Malta, the Netherlands, Italy, West Germany, Turkey and Yugoslavia. In addition, informal migration agreements were established with Austria, Greece, Spain, Belgium and some other nations.
- Australia also worked with the International Refugee Organisation to allow thousands of displaced persons and refugees to migrate to Australia.
Managing cultural and attitudinal change
- The Australian Government was aware that, after decades of restricted immigration, negative attitudes to people of different races and nationalities remained in the community. Tomorrow’s Australians was published in an attempt to change such attitudes, by promoting the advantages of the new migrants. For example, the Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell notes the need to quickly increase Australia’s population with Britons and ‘Europeans of our choice’, in order to avoid the threat of invasion by ‘less-desirable’ migrants.
- Tomorrow’s Australians highlights the skills and personal qualities that the new migrants would bring to Australia. Various migrant groups are discussed in terms of the positive attributes they can offer the Australian nation, such as being hard workers or skilled farmers. These migrants are contrasted with the supposed qualities of ‘less-desirable’ groups—in this case people from Asian countries, who were not permitted to migrate to Australia until decades later.
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