Flood of immigrants

This guide was last updated in 2009

At the same time as the enforced movement of criminals was taking place, free settlers were also encouraged to migrate to Australia to help with the economic development of the country.

They came as either assisted or unassisted immigrants, which indicates whether they received some financial help with travel costs or paid their own way.

Many Irish families fled the famine in their own country by resettling in Australia in the 1840s. The gold rushes in the 1850s further helped fuel migration into the country from Britain, Europe and elsewhere.

With the shortening of travelling time brought about by the large ships of the early 20th century, migration to Australia before and after the First World War was a very popular option with people who wished to start a new life overseas.

A chronic manpower shortage “down under” in the period immediately after the Second World War saw the government subsidise migrants with free or cheap travel.

Over a million British migrants – “Ten Pound Poms” – arrived in Australia between 1945 and 1972. So although Australia is very closely associated with its convict heritage, they formed only a very small percentage of the migrants who have populated the county over the last 220 years.

While many people living in the UK today may not have direct ancestors who resided in Australia for generation after generation, there will be some whose forebears were there temporarily, either as convicts or free settlers. However, the major link with people in Australia is likely to be through brothers and sisters of the main ancestral line. Many families will have stories of aunts, uncles and cousins who moved down under to improve their chances in life.

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