Australias migration history

  • 1788

    Since 1788 more than 9 million people have migrated to Australia. However attitudes to migration and particularly to the ideal source of migrants have changed considerably over the years.
  • 1830's

    The first migrants were involuntary, convicts transported from Britain and Ireland. From the 1830s they were joined by small numbers of voluntary migrants, again principally from Britain and Ireland.
  • 1851-1861

    Between 1851 and 1861 over 600,000 came and while the majority were from Britain and Ireland, many emigrated from Continental Europe, China, the United States, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Although Australia never again saw such a rush of new immigrants, the heightened interest in settling here remained.
  • 1901

    By the time of Federation in 1901 the total population was close to four million, with one in four born overseas. Many had been given assisted passages. Whilst the majority were of British or Irish extraction, there were significant numbers of Europeans, particularly Germans, and Chinese.
  • White Australian Policy

    When the colonies federated in 1901, control of immigration changed. Instead of each colony managing its own system, the Commonwealth now oversaw recruiting and selection. Assisted passages were offered to encourage migration with priority still being given to the British and Irish. Despite comparatively large numbers of Chinese residents in Australia, the first legislation passed by the new parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act.
  • 1914

    In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, migration almost ceased. Furthermore, some migrants from countries previously thought acceptable were now reclassified as ‘enemy aliens’. Those born in Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria and Turkey faced imprisonment or general restrictions on their daily lives
  • 1918

    With the 1918 peace came a revival of assisted migration schemes. The British Government offered ex-servicemen free passage and increasing numbers of young men from Greece and Italy paid their own way to Australia.
  • 1930's

    By the 1930s, Jewish settlers began arriving in greater numbers, many of them refugees from Hitler’s Europe. However the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression put an end to sponsored migration and it was not until Australia had again fought a war that it was resumed.
  • 1945

    In 1945, the Department of Immigration was established, headed up by Arthur Calwell. It resolved that Australia should have annual population growth of two per cent, of which only half could come from natural increase. 70,000 immigrants a year were needed to make up the difference.
  • 1950's

    During the 1950s the Federal Government negotiated a series of migration agreements with the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Belgium, West Germany, Greece, Spain, the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
  • from 1950s

    From the 1950s, Australia began to relax its ‘White Australia’ policy
  • 1956

    In 1956 non-European residents were allowed to apply for citizenship. Two years later the Dictation Test was abolished as a further means of exclusion.
  • 1960

    By the 1960s mixed race migration was becoming easier
  • 1961

    Australian society was becoming markedly less British and Irish in character. At the 1961 census, eight per cent of the population was non-British in origin with the largest group being Italians followed by Germans, Greeks and Poles.
  • 1967

    in 1967 Australia entered into its first migration agreement with a non-European country, in this case Turkey.
  • 1972

    Then in 1972 Australians elected their first Labor government since 1948
  • 1973

    In 1973, declaring Australia a ‘multicultural’ society, Al Grassby announced that every relic of past ethnic or racial discrimination had been abolished. The Australian Citizenship Act of that year declared that all migrants were to be accorded equal treatment.
  • 1975

    In 1975 the first of what would become known as ‘boat people’ arrived in Darwin.
  • 2006

    n 2006 the fastest growing refugee group is from Sudan followed by Afghanistan and Iraq.