journey to the end
of the earth

These trunks and suitcases were used by Mikolaj Rezko, Bill Erwich, and Michael Gryllis and Theo Gryllis on their journeys...
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Australia was not generally the first choice of destination for many migrants, simply because not much, if anything, was known about the country. However, despite rigorous security and medical checks, it was often quicker and easier for migrants to find a passage to Australia than to the United States or Canada. So desperate were many of them to leave behind bad memories of wartime Europe and years living in limbo in camps, they took a chance on forging a new life on the other side of the earth.

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Joe Cudars with his parents Josef and Eleonora, as he prepares to leave a displaced persons' camp in Germany to work for the British Army, late 1940s.

Photo courtesy Joe and Wilma Cudars

The first ships to take migrants from Europe to Australia were often former cargo or troopships hastily converted for the migrant trade. Between 1947 and 1952, dozens of ships carried displaced people, accommodating them in large segregated cabins or dormitories and offering only basic facilities. When the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) agreement ended in 1952 and the last of the displaced people had emigrated, ships carrying economic migrants tended to be of a higher standard. While the early migrant ships sailing from Europe to Australia were far from luxurious, for many people it was an adventure never to be forgotten. On board the ships there was some attempt to prepare the migrants for their new life in Australia, with English lessons and films.

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Migrants board the Nelly in Bremerhaven, Germany, 1952. The ship is displaying an Australian flag.

Photo courtesy Tony Siemer

Migrants who came to live in Orange usually did not go directly there. Unless they were met by relations or friends in Australia or already had a job lined up, those who disembarked in Melbourne were first sent by train to Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre near Wodonga in Victoria; those who arrived in Sydney were usually sent to the Kelso Reception Centre near Bathurst. The migrant camps, as they were called, offered accommodation and food, some English lessons and basic training for some types of employment. From there, men were usually quickly allocated work and sent wherever the job was. They were required to work within the industry allocated to them for two years. Women and children were moved to more permanent migrant holding centres in Cowra and Parkes if their breadwinners were working in and around Orange. The reason for separating women and children from their men was simply because there was a critical shortage of accommodation in Orange and there was nowhere for them to stay.

other migration journeys to orange

» Babij, Anna & Kate
» Bittkow, Wilhelm & Hilde
» Bobeldyk, Henny, Arthur & Baz
» Boers, Ferdie
» Cudars, Joe
» Cunial, Antonio
» Cunial, Joe & Tarsilla
» Dvikov, Cecilia
» Gilbert, Alexandra
» Kloosterman, Bill & Henny
» Lihos, Helen & Sam
» Portegies, Dorrie
» Rezko, Alexandra
» Runeman, Henk
» Sekutkovski, Marie
» Srejic, Brunhilde
» Takacs, Yolanda