WORLD WAR II to 1960


In the final months of the war, Australia’s first Department of Immigration was formed. The new department implemented immigration programs unprecedented in scale, to resettle refugees from war-ravaged Europe.

Between 1947 and 1954, over 170,000 European refugees were resettled in Australia under agreements between Australia, various European governments and the newly created International Refugee Organization (replaced by UNHCR in 1952).

These resettlement programs were delivered prior to Australia’s ratification of the Refugee Convention on January 22, 1954.

At this time, Australia’s approach to affording people protection was guided by economic and geo-political interests, as well as by the White Australia Policy. Migration was seen as an important way of combating both the labour shortages created by the war as well as the growing power of the Soviet Union. And, the government attempted to repatriate more than 6000 Asian nationals who were granted protection in Australia during the Pacific War. After public protest against controversial proposals to deport those who were refusing to leave, about 900 were permitted to stay in the country.