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Exhibition at Museum of Geraldton examines the rich diversity of Australian immigrants
Refugees await resettlement in a displaced persons camp in Italy, 1947.

GERALDTON.- A Greek girl sent across the world to marry a man she’d never met, an African journalist fleeing for his life, and a stateless baby born in India to Iranian parents. They’re just some of the human stories that feature in A Ticket to Paradise? opening Saturday 1 September at the Museum of Geraldton.

The touring exhibition from the National Archives of Australia examines the rich diversity of Australian immigrants and the government’s ambitious plans after World War Two to encourage mass migration.

“The program transformed the nation socially, economically and culturally,” National Archives curator Tracey Clarke said.

“It has resulted in a community where, today, one quarter of our population was born overseas, and nearly half of us have at least one parent born elsewhere. While most people are aware of this aspect of our cultural heritage, many don’t realise the wealth of immigration history held by the National Archives, from personal and family stories to government campaigns and policies.

“In A Ticket to Paradise? we’ve tried to show that the migrant experience is as diverse as the seven million people who have arrived here from more than 200 different countries.”

The Museum of Geraldton’s Regional Manager, Leigh O’Brien, said the exhibition reveals the human aspect of migration, with recordings of new and archival personal stories.

“These stories give an insight into the rich, complex and very different experiences of the migrants and refugees who have settled in Australia,” Ms O’Brien said.

“The greatest number of European migrants arrived in Geraldton after World War Two. These included many Italian migrants who were involved in the local fishing and market garden industries.”

The exhibition also examines promotional campaigns which presented a utopian view of Australia as a welcoming country full of opportunity.

“The government-run campaigns emphasised Australia’s climate, beaches, jobs and housing – a safe home after the atrocities of war,” said Ms Clarke.

“But they also aimed to allay fears that might arise on the home front.”

The Department of Immigration was established in 1945 to encourage and select prospective immigrants.

As well as film footage and audio recordings, the exhibition features many images of migrants taken by government photographers between the 1940s and 1990s to enhance and drive the campaigns.

The National Archives has partnered with the Department of Home Affairs to enable the exhibition to tour throughout Australia.

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