Australia’s fear of invasion was once again heightened at the end of World War 2 and ‘Populate or Perish’ became a common catchcry. The Federal Government quickly introduced schemes to attract more British migrants. Old passenger liners were refitted with basic accommodation and ‘Ten Pound Poms’ paid £10 for a fare that would normally cost £75 (the equivalent of several months’ wages). Over the next 25 years more than one and a half million Britons arrived in Australia (although a quarter returned).

The desire for migrants could not be satisfied by Britain alone and Australia also accepted 170,000 displaced persons from Europe. Many Balts, Poles, Italians and Germans were brought to Tasmania in exchange for two years’ work on industrial and public works projects. Refugees were closely followed by economic migrants, keen to leave war torn Europe for new opportunities in Australia. Apart from relatively small numbers of Germans and Chinese who arrived in the 1800s, these people were Tasmania’s first large group of non-English speaking migrants.


Bill Nicholson - child evacuee on the 'Batory'
Bill Nicholson was 13 when he asked to be evacuated from Edinburgh to Australia at the onset of war. His parents reluctantly agreed and he became one of about 573 children evacuated before German submarines made the voyage too risky. A Tasmanian host family looked after Bill during the War and although he returned home in 1945, nine years later he asked his host family to nominate him as a migrant. He was followed later by his parents and two siblings.

Jorg Andersch

Jorg Andersch – hard labour on the west coast
Jorg Andersch, obtained an assisted passage on the Anna Salen which sailed from Bremerhaven in October 1955. He was sent to Queenstown to work at the Mt Lyell copper mine, quite a contrast to his later work as an art teacher and art critic for the Hobart Mercury. National Library of Australia

Migrants for Hobart on the 'Fairstar'
In the post war period few migrants arrived in Tasmania without transhipping in Melbourne. The exception was a voyage by the Sitmar liner 'Fairstar' which arrived in October 1967 and disembarked ninety one assisted migrants for various parts of the State. By this time migrants were generally travelling tourist class on regular shipping services or on aircraft. 

The Pearson family arriving on the Fairstar

The Pearson family arriving on the 'Fairstar'

Reet born in displaced persons camp

Reet – a very new arrival on the 'Nelly'
Displaced Persons from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were the first refugees to be accepted for resettlement in Australia after the War. As there was a high risk of being shot or sent to Siberia if they returned to their Soviet occupied countries, Reet’s parents lived in a Displaced Persons’ camp until they could be resettled. Reet was born in the camp before they sailed to Australia on the 'Nelly'. Her father was put to work felling trees near Scottsdale in northern Tasmania.

'Strathnaver' brings Poles to Hobart
After the War several million Poles chose exile rather than life in Communist Poland. About 1,500 ex-servicemen (mostly 'Rats of Tobruk') and Displaced Persons, came to Tasmania. Many were sent to remote hydro electric schemes and housed in camps with few amenities. However, the men played music and sport, formed a choir and celebrated Mass. After their two year contracts ended many married and settled in Tasmania. Launceston Examiner 9.8.1948


Bob Heggie, seaman – met a girl and stayed
Bob Heggie was an engineer on Port Line vessels which came to Hobart every apple season during the 1950s and 1960s. With so many ships arriving for the fruit, they sometimes had to wait up to five weeks for a berth. The crew had plenty of time to meet the locals and Bob was one of many seamen who married Tasmanian girls. He settled here permanently in 1962.

Ansett airlines plane
By the 1950s some migrants were arriving by plane. Ansett airline plane landing at Llanherne Airport, Hobart. Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

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