When the Europeans landed the land was filled with native Australians (Aboriginals), this was something the didn't expect. Instead they found themselves out numbered by more than 500,000 Indigenous Aboriginals.

Convict Transportation

1788 - 1868

Britain transported more than 160,000 convicts. From the overcrowded prisons in Britain they eventually filled them into Australian Colonies. This journey took 8 months out on sea and during this time the convicts were chained and crammed into one cell.

Free Immigrants

1793 - 1850

nearly 200,000 free settlers chose to migrate to Australia to start a new life. The majority were English agricultural workers or domestic servants, as well as Irish and Scottish migrants. These immigrants slowly began the basis of the new Australian civilization.

The Gold Rush


Thousands of Chinese people came to Australia during the 1850s gold rushes and by 1901 Chinese became the third largest migrant group in Australia after British and Germans. When the Gold was becoming limited they all took jobs in gardening, businesses, laundries and restaurants.


1850 - 1900

In the second half of the 19th Century, South Sea Islanders were recruited to work in Queensland in the Sugar Plantations. Then the Afghan cameleers were recruited to explore the outback of Australia, this was a vital role. Finally the Japanese divers contributed to the pearl diving industry.

White Australia Policy

1901 - 1965

1901 Australia’s newly-formed Federal Parliament passed the Immigration Restriction Act, which placed certain restrictions on immigration and aimed to stop Chinese and South Sea Islanders from coming to Australia. These laws, known as the White Australia policy, were administered by a dictation test and informed Australian attitudes to immigration for the next 50 years.

Populate or Perish


after World War 2, Australia promoted immigration with the catchphrase ‘Populate or perish!’ to replenish the countless citizens lost at war. More than two million migrants and displaced people from Europe, offered assisted £10 passages to Australia to one million British migrants, and finally, in the 1970s, repealed the restrictive White Australia policy framed in 1901.

Boat People


refugees docked in Darwin, firstly from East Timor and then from Indochina, most fleeing from war and violence in their home countries. The Vietnamese ‘boat people’ in particular arrived at a time of dramatic social upheaval in Australia, with heated public debate about our involvement in the Vietnam War and the new concept of multiculturalism. Eventually they were allowed to settle into Australia.

Asylum Seekers

1990 - Present

Increasing numbers of asylum seekers fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Sri Lanka have arrived in Australia by boat. Today the question of how to deal with asylum seekers arriving on unauthorised voyages remains one of the most controversial issues in contemporary Australia.