This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

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Chris Holtby

Consul-General Melbourne

Part of UK in Australia

15th February 2018 Melbourne, Australia

Ten Pound Poms: exploring Melbourne’s museum exhibition

My last weekend started in great style on Friday evening at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum, where I joined hundreds of Melburnians for an evening of 60s and 70s British music, fish and chips and even sneaked in a summer Pimms…

The vibrance of the 60s was recreated by the band Marshmallow Undercoat who paid tribute to the British rock and roll sounds of The Who, The Kinks and Pink Floyd. A vinyls fair alongside provided the opportunity to take home copies of the originals.

The backdrop to all of this was the excellent exhibition running at the Immigration Museum until mid-April about the “£10 Poms” who arrived in Australia after paying £10 for their transit and their many and varied experiences, which those attending this Summer Courtyard event were able to visit too.

Over the 35 years between 1947 and 1981, about 1.5 million people migrated from the UK to Australia. There was a very active campaign to attract them, and many of the posters used then are reproduced in the exhibition – they make the choices seem very simple and very, very attractive! And the majority settled in, made new lives and prospered. But the settling in wasn’t always quick or easy, and some even turned round and went back. The exhibition tells some of the many and varied stories of some of these “Instant Australians”, some of them very emotional.

On the opening day of the exhibition, I got to meet some of those whose stories are told in the exhibition. Many still identify strongly with the UK, some of them still call it “home”, but all very clear that they wouldn’t now want to live anywhere apart from Australia. Their experience, and this exhibition, is very multi-layered and hugely personal – very much in fact like the UK’s relationship with Australia.

And I was very happy to be joined at the event on Friday by members of the Australia-Britain Society and the Royal Overseas League, both of which have many members who migrated to Australia in this period, so there was at least one £10 Pom there on Friday night! Both organisations work very hard too to sustain the relationship between our two countries, looking back at a shared past, but also looking forward too at our shared future, including through the work which the Australia-Britain Society does to encourage Young Australians to develop and practice skills in public speaking, a great life skill – but that’s a subject for another blog soon..

Great work by the Immigration Museum both on the exhibition itself, and on opening it up to an even wider audience through this great evening out. My thanks and congratulations to Rohini, Moya and everyone in the Immigration Museum team.

There’s one more Summer Courtyard, on Friday 23rd February from 5pm-9pm, tickets $15 pp for the under 60s, free for those over, which must include many of the £10 Poms!

Make time to visit the exhibition, and if possible the Summer Courtyard too – both well worth it.

Chris Holtby
UK Consul-General for SA TAS VIC Australia

For more information visit the museum website