Talking History Online: British Migrants: Instant Australians?

British Migrants: Instant Australians?

Tuesday 25 August, 5.30pm

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Between 1947 and 1981 nearly 1.5 million Britons migrated to Australia, seduced by promises of sun, surf and a better life. Most of the newcomers came on assisted passages, part of the Australian Government’s pursuit of a white, British, nation. This group of migrants were simultaneously everywhere and invisible, expected to become ‘instant Australians’. But the reality of migration is never that simple.

The exhibition British Migrants: Instant Australians?, developed by Museums Victoria and currently on display at the Migration Museum in Adelaide, explores the personal experiences and historical and contemporary impacts of British migrants in the postwar decades. The exhibition features stories told by children, teenagers and families, labourers, adventurers, returnees, musicians, and even a snake dancer – brought to life through compelling digital animation. Join us for a unique panel that unpacks these stories.

This free public lecture is part of the History Trust’s Talking History series. This webinar is co-hosted by the History Trust of South Australia and the Migration Museum.

Lecture will commence at 5.30pm on Zoom. There will be a short Q&A following the lecture.




Panelists (clockwise from top left)

Dr Moya McFadzean is the Senior Curator of Migration & Cultural Diversity in the Society & Technology Department at Museums Victoria, and is responsible for developing the museum’s migration and diversity-related collections and exhibitions. Her curatorial work focuses on the application of material culture and memory of migration and cultural diversity to interpretations of Australian migrant narratives, as well as museums as sites of social activism and their potential for developing relationships of genuine engagement and reciprocity with communities. Over the last ten years her most significant exhibition achievements include the following at the Immigration Museum: Identity: yours mine ours (lead curator, 2011 to present), British Migrants: Instant Australians? (lead curator, Immigration Museum 2017), LOVE (lead curator, Immigration Museum 2018) and Becoming You: An Incomplete Guide (lead curator, 2020). Integral to all these exhibitions has been her engagement with diverse communities and creative practitioners and developing innovative approaches to storytelling through the authentic voice.

Dr Jim Hammerton is Emeritus Scholar at La Trobe University, Melbourne. His most recent publications on postwar British emigration from Britain are: with Alistair Thomson, Ten Pound Poms: A Life History of Postwar British emigration to Australia (Manchester University Press, 2005), and Migrants of the British Diaspora since the 1960s: Stories from Modern Nomads (Manchester University Press, 2017 and 2019). His current research focuses on the history of an English expatriate extended family in Russia, Iran and Iraq in the early twentieth century.

Mandy Paul is Director, Migration Museum, Major Projects, Research and Collections. She is responsible for the Migration Museum’s people, site, interpretation and strategic direction. Mandy is also responsible for research and collections across the History Trust. Mandy is a curator and historian with a particular interest in the social and migration history of South Australia, and relationships between settler-colonisers and First Nations Peoples. She has published widely in these fields and is currently a Partner Investigator on two ARC Linkage projects: ‘Reconciling with the Frontier: Accounting for Colonial Conflict’ and ‘LGBTQ Migrations: Life Story Narratives in the South Australian GLAM sector’.

Jan Coolen is a British Migrant who came to Australia as an 18 year old teenager in 1964. She migrated (reluctantly) with her parents and two siblings, to Adelaide, South Australia, staying in the Elder Park Migrant Hostel before they moved to their new home in Elizabeth, a new city being built north of Adelaide. Jan obtained employment straight away and adapted quickly to life in Australia, albeit with a longing to return to England after the designated two years in Australia required for Ten Pound Poms. Working on the Snowy Mountains Scheme in the late 60s early 70s, Jan met and eventually married a Dutch migrant and they made their home in Adelaide. Now 74 years old, Jan has lived a very full and happy life with her husband, three children and eight grandchildren, and only now is starting to wind down to a slower pace and taking time to sit back to smell the roses.