Australia Day and Ten Pound Poms

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia.  Celebrated annually on 26th January, the day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, the hoisting of the British flag there and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland.

I mention this because I have family living in Australia who will probably be joining in the celebrations today.

Created as part of the “Populate or Perish“, the assisted passage policy was designed 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 £10 for the fare and children were allowed to travel for free.  To put that into perspective that was about a week’s wages for a London bus driver at the time but even more interestingly it was just about a third of the cost of a package holiday to Spain.


One hundred years earlier or so Brian could probably have gone to Australia for free!

The Australian Government promised employment, housing and prospects for an improved lifestyle.  In return assisted migrants were 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, about three months wages, a large sum in those days and one that most could not afford.  So once you had upped-sticks and gone that was it!

The primary source of immigration to Australia in the 1960′s was from Europe, and in particular Great Britain. The reason was World War II. The people were looking to get away from the depressing economic situation back home and Australia it seemed was everything that Europe was not.  In the 1950s and 60s, there was the possibility of rise to undreamed-of affluence.  During the 1950s, Australia enjoyed the most even income distribution of any western industrialized nation and the 1960s were the really affluent years.

More than two million migrants arrived between 1945 and 1965, and the Australian population increased from seven to eleven million.  These “New Australians” were much of the workforce behind many of the intense development of Australia in the 1950s and 60s, providing manual labour in steelworks, mines, factories and on the roads.


It was the promise of a new life that took my Uncle Brian and his family to the new world of Australia in the mid 1960s.  After a string of jobs following National service in the Royal Navy he was by then a bus driver with London Transport and for him the transformation of British society and the arrival of many immigrants from the Commonwealth convinced him that England was a spent force with few prospects for him and his family and he was seduced by the offer of the assisted passage.

Before he left he came to stay with us one last time at our house in Hillmorton near Rugby and then he and his wife Pat and his son Glen were gone for good.  During this visit I recall conversations with my parents explaining how Australia was the land of milk and honey and how the pavements were made of gold and for a short while mum and dad actually considered it themselves but luckily dad didn’t have an  adventurous bone in his body, once he even turned down a job offer in Suffolk because he thought it was too far to go and that was only about one hundred miles, so we were certain never to follow them.

After six weeks at sea they arrived in Adelaide and started a new life in the sunshine of South Australia and shortly after that they had a second son called Gavin and this is a cousin that I have never met because I have a family on the other side of the World who, let’s face it, I may well never ever see.


My grandparents visited Australia on several occasions, once for a six months sojourn and my parents went to visit but Dad didn’t especially like it so didn’t ever want to go back.  Brian and Pat have been home only once, in 2003, but sadly Brian died in October 2011 and as the Australian side of the family don’t regard it as home any more they currently have no plans to ever come back again.

Good on Yer, Mate!

30 responses to “Australia Day and Ten Pound Poms

  1. Australia also took in a quota of refugees after WW II. My godmother landed in Brisbane. I always wanted to go visit, but never put it together.


  2. Happy Australia Day Andrew. You should check out this year’s Australia Day lamb ad. Google it. 🙂


  3. My father had a choice between Australia and Canada after the war. My understanding is he felt ‘everyone’ was heading there so he chose Canada, a clean slate, new and c.o.l.d. Brr.


  4. A most proud day over here today, Andrew – Australia Day! Must say my family and I fit into your story quite well only our fares were paid by Caritas of Catholic Church and needed to be returned…that was quite frequent case for migrants from Europe in late fifties/early sixties. Here’s bit on me/ 4th photo in series of me 🙂 Cheers and happy Australia day!


  5. You’ve never been? A much-travelled adventurer like you! Levison Wood would think you a wuss.


  6. My family split after WW1 when my granddad didn’t go back to Canada (where he had already lived for a few years) because his fiancée wanted to stay in Derbyshire. He planned to live in Muskoka Falls in Ontario and I often wonder what it would have been like, although they did have a recent Bigfoot sighting, something which might well have cut back my birdwatching in the woods, I suspect.


  7. Bigfoot supposedly lives in our area, Andrew. There is even a trap about five miles from where I live. It was built in the 70s and has since been restored by the forest service. All it ever caught was a couple of bears. You can go here to read a blog I did on it:…p-near-our-house/ –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’d love to do a big country tour – wish I’d have had a gap year there when I left uni like everyone else!


  9. I enjoyed learning more about the immigration into Australia and your family connection Andrew. We leave in about 4 weeks for Australia!


  10. I have family who tried Australia, couldn’t settle, and ended up in Canada very soon after their return to the UK. Apart from the cold winters they love the Canadian life style. I know it’s a long way to go, Andrew, but I’m surprised you’ve not been. I had a flatmate who was emigrating at the time I lived in London. She didn’t settle either, but part of me desperately wanted to go with her. Who knows how it might have turned out 🙂


  11. I think my parents (and me) have some gypsy blood. Funny you doing this post – I posted one on Australia Day and recalled how we came to be here. Not as a £10 Pone! You ought to come down under Andrew and take a look 😊


  12. Prince Phil of Greece

    Had the misfortune of visiting Aus in January of this year. A backwards depressing land. Wonderful landscape but the people are just vile. Poorly educated, zero culture, rude, racist. From the moment I set foot off the plane you could tell what a strange place it was. Sad but true.


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