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2. What do you need to know about migration?

Ship docking with streamers strewn between ship and shore. A banner on the ship reads ‘Hello Sydney!’.

National Archives of Australia, A12111, 1/1947/4/2A

Ship docking with streamers strewn between ship and shore. A banner on the ship reads ‘Hello Sydney!’.

Migration is a major experience in a person’s life. But it is also significant for the country to which the person is migrating.

Migration has been a major feature of Australian life since 1788.

There are a number of Defining Moments in Australian history that are excellent ‘starting points’ for you to investigate elements of the post-Second World War Australian migration experience.

Below is a list of key questions that you need to be able to answer to show a knowledge and understanding of this period. As you work through the Defining Moments and other resources in this learning module you can note down ideas and key information that will help you answer them.

Key questions

Think about how you could answer these questions as you complete this investigation:

1. Who has migrated to Australia since the Second World War and what has been their experience?

  • Who has migrated to Australia?
  • Where have these people come from?
  • Why did they come?
  • How were they treated when they arrived?
  • What support/opposition existed from the Australian community?
  • What challenges/failures did they experience? (Explain why.)  

2. How did governments organise postwar migration?

  • Under what government policies, schemes or support did migrants arrive in Australia?
  • Why did governments have those policies?
  • Why were successive governments keen for migrants to come to Australia?
  • How did the emphasis and focus of migration policies change over time?
  • Was the emphasis on integration, assimilation or multiculturalism?
  • How successful were Australia’s migration policies? (Explain why.)

3. How was the White Australia policy changed?

  • Why was the White Australia policy changed?
  • Did it create harmony or division among communities?
  • What were the economic, political, environmental and social impacts?

4. How have some asylum seekers become a contested area of postwar migration?

  • Who are asylum seekers?
  • When and how have they come to Australia since the Second World War?
  • How have governments responded to asylum seekers and why has that response varied over time?
  • What obligations do countries such as Australia have towards asylum seekers?

5. What have been the overall impacts of postwar migration on Australian society?

  • What impacts has postwar migration had on Australian diversity and identity?
  • How have these impacts changed over time?
  • What has caused these changes?
  • What have been the consequences of the changes?
  • What stayed the same? Why?

Once you have looked at the questions, and perhaps added some, go to the next section to start your investigation.

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