Ten Pound Poms

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The Orient Steam Navigation Company liner SS Orontes in Tilbury Docks circa 1957 shortly before sailing for Sydney carrying (mainly) migrants on the assisted passage scheme.

Ten Pound Poms (or Ten Pound tourists) is a colloquial term used in Australia to describe British subjects who migrated to Australia after World War II under the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme established by the Government of Australia.[1]

Assisted Passage Migration Scheme[edit]

The Assisted Passage Migration Scheme was created in 1945 by the Chifley Government and its first Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, as part of the "Populate or Perish" policy. It was intended to substantially increase the population of Australia and to supply workers for the country's booming industries. In return for subsidising the cost of travelling to Australia—adult migrants were charged only ten pounds sterling for the fare (hence the name; in 1945 pounds, equivalent to £385 in 2016), and children were allowed to travel free of charge—the Government promised employment prospects, housing and a generally more optimistic lifestyle. However, on arrival, migrants were placed in basic hostels and the expected job opportunities were not always readily available.[2] It was a follow-on to the unofficial Big Brother Movement and attracted over one million migrants from the British Isles between 1945 and 1972, representing the last substantial scheme for preferential migration from the British Isles to Australia.[3] In 1957, more migrants were encouraged to travel following a campaign called "Bring out a Briton". Coming to an end in 1982,[4] the scheme reached its peak in 1969; during this year over 80,000 migrants took advantage of the scheme.[5] The cost to migrants of the assisted passage was increased to £75 in 1973 (equivalent to £810 in 2016).[2]

While the term "Ten Pound Pom" is in common use, the scheme was not limited to migrants from the United Kingdom. Persons born in the Irish Free State or in the southern counties of Ireland prior to the establishment of the Republic of Ireland in 1949 were also classified as British subjects.[6] In fact most British subjects were eligible and, at the time, that included not only those from the British Isles but also residents of British colonies such as Malta and Cyprus. Australia also operated schemes to assist selected migrants from other countries, notably the Netherlands (1951), Italy (1951), Greece (1952), West Germany (1952), and Turkey (1967).[7]

Assisted migrants were generally obliged to remain in Australia for two years after arrival, or alternatively refund the cost of their assisted passage. If they chose to travel back to Britain, the cost of the journey was at least £120 (in 1945 pounds, equivalent to £4,625 in 2016), a large sum in those days and one that most could not afford.[4] It was also possible for many British persons to migrate to Australia on a non-assisted basis before the early 1970s, although most travelled as Ten Pounders. This was part of the wider White Australia Policy. A quarter of British migrants chose to return to the UK but half of these—the so-called "Boomerang Poms"—returned to Australia.[4]

Before 1 December 1973, migrants to Australia from Commonwealth countries were eligible to apply for Australian citizenship after one year's residence in Australia. In 1973 the residence requirement was extended to three years, then reduced to two years in November 1984. However, relatively few British migrants—compared to other postwar arrivals, such as Italians, Greeks, and Turks—took up Australian citizenship. Consequently, many lost their Australian resident status later on, usually through leaving Australia.[citation needed]

Well-known participants[edit]

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard migrated with her family from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales in 1966,[8] in her parents' hope the warmer climate would help her cure a lung infection.

Another former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, migrated in 1960 under the scheme, although his father had already lived in Australia after arriving at the beginning of WWII on a Blue Funnel Liner, and his mother was an Australian expatriate living in England at the time of his birth.[9]

England fast bowlers Harold Larwood (in 1950)[10] and Frank Tyson (in 1960) also took advantage of the scheme when they retired from cricket.

The Bee Gees (Gibb brothers) spent their first few years in Chorlton, Manchester, England, then moved in the late 1950s to Redcliffe in Queensland, where they began their musical careers.[11]

The five original members of the Easybeats migrated independently to meet in Sydney and take Australia by storm with 'Easyfever'. Lead singer Stevie Wright migrated from Leeds, England. Meanwhile, Harry Vanda migrated from the The Hague, Netherlands and George Young migrated from Glasgow, Scotland to become the twin guitars and later the songwriting team that took the Easybeats to the world with Friday On My Mind. George's younger brothers Malcolm Young and Angus Young formed the twin guitars of AC/DC, originally produced by Vanda and Young, with another immigrated Scotsman Bon Scott who, after his untimely death, was replaced by UK transplant Brian Johnson (not an assisted passage participant). Malcolm (after being diagnosed with a severe memory loss disorder) was replaced by nephew Stevie Young, who coincidently had travelled on the same flight to Australia in 1963 as his uncles George, Malcolm and Angus.

Grace McNeil (née Greenwood) and Christopher John Jackman, a Cambridge-trained accountant, migrated to Australia in 1967 where their son, Hugh Jackman, was born in Sydney, New South Wales.

Businessman Alan Bond moved to Australia with his family in 1950.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

  • RMS Mooltan—P & O passenger ship
  • The Feldons' song "Win One Time" off their 2012 album Goody Hallett and Other Stories refers to Ten Pound Poms, as the writer's father-in-law was in fact one


  1. ^ "New generation of Ten Pound Poms". BBC News Channel (BBC). 5 August 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Ten Pound Poms". Immigration Museum, State of Victoria. 10 May 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Ten Pound Poms". The University of Sussex at Brighton. Retrieved 16 March 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c Matthews, Lisa (31 January 2008). "The £10 ticket to another life". BBC Timewatch. BBC. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 
  5. ^ Hale, Beth (5 August 2009). "Return of the Ten Pound Poms: Bargain-hunters sleep on the street in race to get a cheap one-way ticket to Australia". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  6. ^ British nationality law and the Republic of Ireland
  7. ^ "Immigration to Australia During the 20th Century – Historical Impacts on Immigration Intake, Population Size and Population Composition – A Timeline" (PDF). Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "Profile: Julia Gillard". BBC News. 7 September 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  9. ^ http://northcoastvoices.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/in-1960-menzies-government-decided-to.html
  10. ^ Keating, Frank (28 April 2010). "Harold Larwood's low-key leaving of England went almost unnoticed". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Famous Ten Pound Poms". Ten Pound Pom. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 

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