Era: 1945 - 1965 Cultural background: Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian Collection: Museum Victoria Theme:Art Communication Education Government Hostels Refugees Settlement WW2
Emigration poster 1948: Australia, land of tomorrow, Joe Greenberg. Courtesy Museum Victoria
Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria.
Emigration poster made by Joe Greenberg in 1948. Paper, Dimensions are unavailable.
After World War II, Europe was in chaos, Germany was crushed and the map of Europe was being carved up by the United States and the Soviet Union. Western Europe was supported by the United States while Eastern Europe was invaded by the Soviet Union. Migrants began streaming out of Eastern Europe to places like Australia and the United States to get away from the oppression in their homelands by the Soviet Union. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union meant that nuclear war was a real threat and some people saw Australia as a safe place to live.
Between 1945 and 1965 more then two million migrants came to Australia. ‘Populate or perish’ became the catchcry, as the Australian Government embarked on an intensive international promotional campaign to encourage migration to Australia. Most were assisted: the government paid most of their fare to get to Australia. The campaign initially targeted Britons with schemes such as ‘Bring out a Briton’, then expanded to provide assistance and reunion schemes to other Europeans.
The first major post-war wave of migration started with displaced persons. These people had fled their countries of birth due to war, dislocation and the redrawing of national borders. Between 1947 and 1953, the Australian Government assisted over 170,000 displaced persons to migrate to Australia. Many came from Eastern Europe where they had suffered terribly during the war. In return they had to stay in Australia for at least two years and work in whatever jobs the government gave them. A number of migrants spent their first months in Australia living in migrant hostels while they tried to find themselves a home. Some found work in factories; others did the hard and dirty jobs in heavy industry. Skilled migrants found it hard to find work to suit their training and qualifications and had to accept what work was available. All migrants, especially those who did not speak English well, had to put up with prejudice. Thousands worked on the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme that was commenced in 1949. Dams, power stations and tunnels were built so that the water from the Snowy River could be used to provide power and irrigation. Workers lived in camps and in newly built towns like Cabramurra doing hard and dangerous work.
The second wave of post-war immigration arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, and consisted of those seeking employment and better living conditions. These included migrants from Italy, Greece, Malta, Croatia and Turkey. These programs were an enormous success. The origins of ‘New Australians’ changed markedly, with British migrants only making up half of the intake, and many migrants coming from southern, eastern and northern Europe. In 1955, the one millionth post-war migrant arrived. Mass migration to Australia continued until the 1960s.
Migrants arrive in Sydney on the Fairsea, c.1963. Courtesy National Archives of Australia
German migrants arrive onboard a T.A.A. Viscount flight, C.1956. These migrants flew from Hamburg, Germany, under the assisted passage scheme sponsored by the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration. Courtesy National Archives of Australia
The creator of this poster, Joe Greenberg, was told later by a Czech migrant that it had been displayed in all the migrant camps in Europe, and had influenced him to come to Australia1.
The poster has historic significance as evidence of post World War 2 mass migration and the attempt by the Australian government to build the nation’s population with European migrants at a time when the White Australia Policy was firmly enforced.
The poster has intangible significance as a reminder of the experience of thousands of post war migrants and the apartheid years under the White Australia Policy.
The poster is well provenanced to Joe Greenberg and the Victoria Museum Collection.
The poster represents a time when Australia saw itself as a predominantly European culture and assisted nearly 200,000 people from Europe to migrate while maintaining the White Australia Policy and the Immigration Restriction Act to keep Asian and Pacific Islanders out.
The interpretive potential of the poster is considerable. The poster displays Australian Government promoting Australia as the land of prosperity and growth to prospective European migrants with the banners such as “Australia: Land of Tomorrows” and imagery of opportunity. The poster interprets the attempts by the Australian government to build up Australia’s population of European migrants at a time when the White Australia Policy was firmly enforced.
Heritage Office & Dept of Urban Affairs & Planning 1996, Regional Histories of NSW, Sydney.
Heritage Collections Council 2001, Significance: A guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage objects and collections, Canberra.
Migration Heritage Centre
June 2007 – updated 2011
Crown copyright 2007©
The Migration Heritage Centre at the Powerhouse Museum is a NSW Government initiative supported by the Community Relations Commission.
Museum Victoria aims to takes visitors on a journey of discovery to a new world of knowledge and perspective.