Britain

Britain

Between 1788 and 1852, Britain’s soaring crime rate and overcrowded prisons led to the transportation of approximately 100,000 English convicts to eastern Australia. In the 1840s there was a nationwide economic depression in Britain that made the prospect of resettling in Australia attractive to the English. Depression in industries - such as building, agriculture and labour - and unemployment in England left others with little choice but to make the move to Australia.

The gold discoveries of the 1850s also provided powerful motivation to migrate to Australia. Working class immigrants in the 1850s aspired for self-employment.

Vigorous recruitment drives through agents and lecturers were used to publicise the attractiveness of Australia and raise awareness about assistance schemes. Preference was given to agricultural labourers and female domestic servants, who were offered inducements such as a higher salary. Emigration agents and officers throughout Britain and Ireland aimed to attract and select employable potential immigrants.

Assistance schemes promoted land ownership, economic security, a pleasant climate and the British culture of Australian society. From 1922, the Empire Settlement Act assisted thousands of immigrants from England.

The assistance varied depending on the age and departure date of the English immigrant. Just after World War I, ex-servicemen and their families received passage, while from 1921 assisted passages and loans were provided for citizens, with over two thirds of permanent settlers benefiting from the scheme.

After 1925, the assisted passage scheme became more lucrative as the British and Australian governments jointly funded the program. The scheme was suspended in 1929 and then revived briefly between 1938 and ‘39. Principally the English who took up the assistance were from cities, provinces and industrial centres rather than rural areas and most were young.

The Australian Government maintained assisted passage schemes, which greatly influenced emigration, in order to meet labour shortages, ensure family reunions and to increase the female population. Brits were enticed by employment opportunities offered through land schemes, public works and the expansion of capital investment during periods of prosperity in Australia.

The majority of English-born migrants received assisted passages until the scheme was abolished in 1981.

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