Post war British migration

Between 1945 and 1983 over one million Britons came to Australia. Many of them aimed to find better job opportunities, a healthier climate and a good future for their children. [1] The Department of Immigration launched several British migration schemes from 1945 to 1959 to assist with the migration process. The popularly known ‘Ten Pound Pom’ scheme enabled British migrants to board a ship to Australia for only £10 per adult, and children under 14 years travelled for free. [2]

Whilst a great number of migrants from other cultural backgrounds also immigrated to Australia during this period, there was a desire to maintain the Britishness within Australia, in the spirit of the White Australia Policy.[3] The Australian Women’s Weekly illustrated in 1957, that Australia “is a British country, with blood ties and responsibilities within a British Commonwealth, and Australians would naturally like to keep a reasonable balance between British migrants and those who come from other countries.”[4]

Poster Make it easier help build Australia. National Archives of Australia: SP545/3, 58/61 MAKE IT EASIER BUILD AUST.

Bring out a Briton scheme

With emphasis on family migration, the ‘Bring out a Briton’ (BOAB) migration scheme was launched in 1957. It encouraged Australian communities to find groups, employers and individuals to sponsor British migrants. Local ‘Bring out a Briton’ committees were formed around Australia to assist sponsors and to recommend applicants to the Department of Immigration. The sponsors would find initial accommodation and employment for the new potential migrants who, once accepted, would travel to Australia under the United Kingdom Australia Assisted Passage Agreement.[5] About 500 people had arrived in Australia under this scheme by the end of 1957, yet, the BOAB campaign faced some difficulties due to Australia’s post war shortage of housing and jobs. Some communities struggled to find accommodation and employment for the migrants. Alfred Blatchley, a member of one of the BOAB committees explained, “my committee (Gosford Shire), in its five-months’ existence, has not yet been able to settle even one of the British families brought out by the Federal Government Immigration Department under the ‘Bring out a Briton’ scheme”[6]. Many of these families had to stay in government hostels for years – far away from their dream of a better life in Australia.[7]

This 5-minute film was made by the Commonwealth Film Unit, in 1957. Directed by Lee Robinson, it features popular Australian actor Chips Rafferty as the spokesman for the ‘Bring out a Briton’ campaign.

Rotary club as a sponsor

Under the Rotary plan, Australian Rotary Clubs participated in the ‘Bring out a Briton’ campaign, seeking to find jobs and accommodation for British families. Australia House in London would look up their list of families who wanted to migrate, and then chose a family with the right qualifications for each particular Rotary nomination.[8] “The new plan puts an end to most of the worries of migration”, The Age reported in March 1958. “The British and Australian Rotary clubs write to each other about families, and intending migrants are put in touch with Rotarians in the cities where they will settle.”[9] The idea of involving rotary clubs in sponsoring Britons came from a British migrant who came to Australia in 1945.[10]

The new plan puts an end to most of the worries of migration.

The orient liner Orsova became known as the first ‘Rotary ship’ that carried 215 British migrants to Australia in 1958, nominated by Australian Rotary Clubs. There were 56 families on board, 26 families went to Queensland, 11 to Victoria, nine to Western Australia, seven to New South Wales, two to South Australia and one to Tasmania. The Orsova sailed from South Hampton on 26 March 1958 and arrived in Sydney on 24 April 1958.[11]

Immigration - The 'Bring Out A Briton' (BOAB) migration scheme - The orient liner ORSOVA became the Rotary Ship early in 1958 when she brought to Australia 215 British migrants nominated by Australian Rotary Clubs. There were 56 families in the party. 26 families went to Queensland, 11 to Victoria, 9 to Western Australia, 7 to New South Wales, 2 to South Australia and one to Tasmania. At Melbourne, the Commonwealth Minister for Immigration, Mr A R Downer, boarded the ORSOVA in Port Philip Bay to welcome the migrants, while the NSW governor of Rotary, Dr G Howe, welcomed them at Sydney. The ship arrived at Sydney on April 24 [photographic image] / photographer, Don Edwards. 1 photographic print
The orient liner Orsova, 1958, bringing 215 British migrants to Australia.  National Archives of Australia: 1/1958/7/22.

Rees family migration

On board the Orsova was the Rees family from Penarth near Cardiff, in Wales. William, his wife Winifred and their four children were sponsored by the Hurstville Rotary Club. [12] After their arrival in Australia, the Rees family were accommodated in a house in Hurstville provided by Rotarian Fred Parkinson.[13]
William lodged the family’s migration application in April 1957 which got approved almost a year later, on 5 March. This was only three weeks before the Orsova’s departure, which didn’t leave much time to prepare for the big move and say good bye to family and friends.

The Rees family at the Bristol Channel, at Penarth, just outside Cardiff, 1958. National Archives of Australia: A12111, 1/1958/7/23.

William, a qualified carpenter and joiner, was involved in British and American large scale housing projects in Britain and in the Middle East before his migration to Australia.[14] The Department of Immigration encouraged him to take to Australia employment references, membership certificates of craft organisations and any tools that were likely to be of use to his work in Australia.[15] According to the Australian electoral rolls from 1963, William found work as an auctioneer, while Winifred looked after the children and the house. At this time they lived at 15 Woodville Street, Hurstville.[16]

This article has been published in conjunction with Hurstville Museum& Gallery’s spotlight display, Bring out a Briton – Post war British migration, on show from 4 February – 9 July 2017.



[1] Media release National Archives of Australia, 26 August 2103. (27.7.2016). See also: Hammerton, J. and Thomson, A. (2005) Ten Pound Poms: Australia’s Invisible Migrants, Manchester University Press: Manchester.

[2] A history of the Department of Immigration. Managing Migration to Australia, 2015. p. 36. (27.7.2016).

[3] Hassam, Andrew: The Bring out a Briton campaign of 1957 and British Migration to Australia in the 1950s. p 819.

[4] Bring out a Briton, The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 13 March 1957, p 2.

[5] Caunt, Hilda: Memory and migration story: a comparison of two studies of British migrants arriving in Western Australia in the 1960s. 2013, p.131.

[6] Homes for UK migrants, Sydney Morning Herald, 12.11.1957, p.2.

[7] Hassam, Andrew, 828-829.

[8] NAA, A12111, 1/1958/7/3.

[9] The Rotary ship could be the answer to Britons migration problems, in: The Age, 21 March 1958, p. 2.

[10] Migrant inspired rotary scheme, in: Good Neighbour, 1 May 1958, p. 3.

[11] NAA, A12111, 1/1958/7/3.

[12] NAA: A12111, 1/1958/7/23; William Dudley born 17 November 1917; Winifred Celia (nee Boulton) born 10 July 1918; John Dudley born 1 June 1943; David Morgan born 17 February 1945; Celia Ann born 17 October 1951; Janet Cheryl born 5 November 1955; NAA: A1877, 26/03/1958 ORSOVA REES W D.

[13] The history of Rotary Club of Hurstville: The first 50 years. (16.09.2016).

[14] The Rotary ship could be the answer to Britons migration problems, in: The Age, 21 March 1958, p. 2.

[15] NAA: A1877, 26/03/1958 ORSOVA REES W D, p.16.

[16] Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1963.

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