Immigration history 1956–1965

Immigration history 1956–1965

Underpinned by the imperative to populate or perish, the second decade saw continued innovation through programs such as Operation Reunion—the reuniting of settlers in Australia with their relatives from overseas, the Bring out a Briton campaign launched in 1957 and visitor entry for thousands of people to attend the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. The program was managed flexibly to respond to changes in the environment, for example in 1961 economic difficulties in Australia led to the suspension of assisted migrant passage schemes with both Italy and Spain. The Australian immigration presence overseas was felt in a wide range of cities, including Copenhagen, Cologne, Beirut, Nairobi and Hong Kong.

Australia's contribution to humanitarian work also expanded and 14 000 Hungarians flowed into the country following the Hungarian uprising, having been interviewed in Austrian camps by departmental officers. The turn of the decade saw Mr Otto Kampe, the 250 000th refugee, arrive in Melbourne.

The need to balance complex and potentially competing needs became evident in the department's work and was reflected by the revised Migration Act in 1958. Among other changes, the revised Act avoided references to questions of race and abolished the dictation test that had been applied to enable exclusion of people who could not answer questions in a specified language. These changes, in conjunction with the 1957 decision to allow non-European migrants with 15 years residence in Australia to become Australian citizens, were two large steps away from the White Australia Policy towards a more balanced and global migration system.

In 1959, the Commonwealth Statistician began publishing separate figures for 'settler arrivals' to distinguish the actual number of migrants from returning Australians or visitors. In 1961, Australia's population reached 10.5 million, a 43 per cent increase from 7.3 million in 1945.

This shift in policy to a more global approach was carried through to settlement matters and, from 1959, Australian citizens living in Australia could sponsor their non-European spouses and any non-married children, who would then be eligible for citizenship. By the end of this decade, there were 30 migrant accommodation centres with a capacity to house 26 225 people—such was the volume of new arrivals during this time.

Photos: (Left to right) A Scottish migrant family arrives in Sydney aboard the New Australia in 1957. Austrian migrants disembark from a Vickers Viscount on to the tarmac of the Essendon Airport in Melbourne in 1956. The first five children destined for Tresca, a homestead used for UK child migrants in Exeter, Tasmania, which was opened by the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Ronald Cross, in March 1958.