The mass influx of European migrants and £10 poms had eased by the 1970s – though many earlier migrants were now sponsoring relatives to join them. Newcomers generally arrived on scheduled flights, much less visible than migrant-filled liners, and most headed to major cities.

A major feature in recent times has been the increased diversity of migrants who have come to Tasmania from Asian, African and South American countries. This became possible after the White Australia policy was abolished in 1973.

The majority of migrants still come from Western Europe and New Zealand but everyone faces the same selection criteria. They must be sponsored by a family member, fill existing skill shortages, or be part of a humanitarian program. In 2012, 1,099 migrants arrived, with roughly one third in each of these categories. Living in Tasmania is particularly challenging for refugees who do not speak English, may have little formal education, must compete in a very tight labour market, and lose friends and relatives to mainland cities.


The extended Eden family in Hobart, 2005

Multiplier effect – the Eden family
Audrey Eden met her linguist husband Robert just after the War when both were working for the League of Nations in Berlin. Robert was looking for better employment opportunities when in 1957 they sailed to Australia with their daughters as £10 Poms. Audrey’s nephew, Chris, was the first relative to follow, arriving in 1964 after an adventurous overland trip. At intervals over the following 44 years his mother, two sisters, a nephew and a niece immigrated with their families.

Joseph Massima teaching in a refugee camp
Joseph Massima teaching in the refugee camp

Joseph Massima – the value of education   
War forced Joseph’s parents to flee from South Sudan to Uganda on two occasions. The second time, when Joseph was 15, they had to live in a refugee camp. Joseph studied hard and was able to attend a Ugandan high school before becoming a volunteer primary teacher in the camp. Life beyond the camp was a futile dream until an older brother who had escaped to Kenya, sponsored Joseph to join him in Hobart. Joseph and his wife are now qualified teachers’ aides and have four children.

Paw Htoo and her son in a Thai refugee camp
Paw Htoo and her son in a Thai refugee camp

Paw Htoo – hope for her son’s future 
Paw Htoo’s family fled to Thailand when Burmese militia killed Karen people and burnt their villages. They were sent to one of Thailand’s refugee camps where an estimated 140,000 Karen now live. Thinking of their young son’s future, Paw Htoo and her husband accepted a United Nations’ offer to resettle their extended family. Her parents stayed, hoping they can one day return home. Paw Htoo likes Hobart’s small size and does not want to follow her sister and other Karen to mainland cities.

Hmong tapestry
Escape over the Mekong River – a Hmong tapestry

The Hmong in Tasmania    
Vue Thaow had a scholarship to study in Hobart when his family and other Hmong fled over the Meekong River to escape persecution from Communists. He sponsored extended family members until there were over 600 Hmong in Hobart in the 1980s. But by then many were leaving their market gardens and colourful stalls at Salamanca Market, for Queensland and better job opportunities. Now only a few remain in Tasmania.

NEXT: The Journey - by Sailing Ship