Ahoy There! Migration in the 1950s

This year is Australian National Maritime Museum’s 30th Anniversary and in celebrating this milestone, this is dedicated to the amazing team at the Sea Museum!

The Sea Museum

Australian National Maritime Museum - Noisebox
Photo by Noisebox

When one thinks of the Sea Museum, the first word that comes to mind would be SHIP! However, the Sea Museum is so much more than you could imagine. It contains various exhibitions, collections and resources on our unique maritime history, including Indigenous, Migration and Ocean Science. Due to the vast range of their collections, the museum is suitable for everyone to come in and explore. The museum also has an education department that runs workshops and tour guides for school/university students. The Vaughan Evans Library is the research library of the museum and holds various collections that is reflective of its interest. This will include the booklet “For New Australians” (1957/1958), which is the basis of my project.

Although the Sea Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Their doors will open to the public from the 1st December, 2021 – so get vaccinated, book your tickets and get ready to be swept away! For now, you can explore the museum through their website which offers you a snapshot of the museum’s collection.

My Project

For History Beyond the Classroom, I am collaborating with Dr Peter Hobbins who is the Head of Knowledge at the Sea Museum. I was interested in this organisation as I have always wanted to visit this museum but have yet to do so due to my misconception of the museum being based on ships. What really drew me to this collaboration was the fact that it explored the topic of ‘migration’. As a person who has migrated to Australia, I’ve always had a deep fascination with Australia’s history of migration. Also, as a history teacher, it would be a wonderful opportunity to work with a museum on a project to develop my novice historian skills. I have always told my students that knowing something is different from doing it. So, in reflection of this mantra, I’ve challenged myself by enrolling into this unit and undertaking a major project with a museum.

My project is based on Peter’s private collection of booklets, “For New Australians” (1957/1958). These were government issued booklets that were provided to post-war migrants to aide them in learning English. For the project, we have decided to create a blog post for Sea Museum’s website as it would be an interesting way to incorporate the original source material in a way that promotes greater historical knowledge. I plan to write about Australia’s society and culture in the 1950s which is well-aligned with the contents of the booklet as it contains scripts that migrants could use to learn everyday English – an important aspect of their assimilation into Australian society. Furthermore, I will discuss the White Australian Policy which was still in effect at the time of the booklet’s issuing, showcasing that at the time, there was racial bias against non-European migrants. To create an engaging blog post, I am also hunting down audio recordings of the radio broadcast in the ABC Archives and the NAA. The inclusion of an audio recording will bring these booklets to ‘life’ and allow the readers to engage with the source in an immersive way. I am super excited about this project but also filled with trepidation as I have never written a blog post in my life, especially one that will be potentially published on a well-known museum’s website!

Collection of “For New Australians” booklets (Photo by Nandar Lin)