Audio Description – Migrant suitcase

Click on the play button to hear an audio description of the migrant suitcase

Hurstville Museum & Gallery has recently undertaken an audio descriptions project for a number of collection items to help increase the accessibility of the collection. This entry is part of the project.

At the end of the Second World War many countries in Europe had been severely damaged by conflict and their populations displaced. Under a Commonwealth government scheme, Australia opened up to allow the mass migration of people from war-torn Europe. The popular slogan ‘populate or perish’ [1], encouraged national acceptance of the large influx of non-British migrants into the country.   

Image 1: Joe Greenberg, Australia land of tomorrow, poster, Commonwealth Department of Information, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Australia_%E2%80%93_Land_of_Tomorrow_poster.jpg 

Between 1945 and 1965 more than two million migrants came to Australia. Most were assisted, with the Federal Government paying their fare, which meant they had to stay in Australia for at least two years and work in indentured jobs, wherever the government sent them[2].  While the first wave of migrants to come to Australia between 1947 and 1953 were displaced persons, their home countries destroyed by war, the second wave after 1953 mainly consisted of people seeking employment and better conditions in Australia.  The migrants who came to Australia in the 1950s and 1960s were from Italy, Greece, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia[3]

Image 2: the suitcase held in Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s collection

With Italian migration to Australia, large numbers of agricultural workers from southern Italian regions arrived, often single men.  Many found employment with projects such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, were sent to the steelworks in Newcastle and Wollongong, or employed in engineering and textile factories in cities[4].  Travelling to Australia they often bought few possessions with them but objects and memorabilia connected with pastimes provided a link with ‘home’. 

Find out more about this item on e-hive, our collection database.


[1] ‘Defining Moments: Post war immigration drive’, https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/postwar-immigration-drive

[2] ‘1945-1965 New Australia’, Migration Heritage Centre, http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/objectsthroughtime-history/1945-1965/index.html

[3] ‘Fifty Years of Post War migration’, Dept. of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (1995), http://www.multiculturalaustralia.edu.au/doc/immdept_3.pdf

[4] ‘ Fact Sheet: Italian migration 1945-1970’, CoAsIt, http://coasit.com.au/IHS/facts/pdf/Italian_migration_1945_1970.pdf

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