1963: ARRIVING IN AUSTRALIA - A story of migration, by the Commonwealth Film Unit

Updated: Jun 12, 2021

A billowing Australian flag, serenaded by an orchestra’s epic jolly jaunting tune sets the scene for “Arriving in Australia,” a Commonwealth Department of Immigration video. This video depicts the arrival and orderly reception of migrants in 1963. It is glossy and clearly made to entice others to come.


“Australia Ahead,” the narrator says, as images of a cruise ship, riding the high seas fills the screen. “The end of your journey is in sight as your ship approaches the coastline of Western Australia but before you land you have a number of things to do.” This video takes us through the stages of entry.



A young caucasian family with a small child are assessed by the ship’s doctor for infectious diseases. Immigration entry forms are handed out for completion and immigration officials board the ship to check papers and hand out an ‘important notice’ outlining obligations under the Alien Act. Passenger lists are checked and the video transitions to waving welcomers on the Fremantle shore. The first party of migrants disembark and the ship heads to Melbourne.


Everyone is smiley and relaxed.


Introductory English lessons were given during the voyage, conducted by Department of Immigration employees and further free lessons are promised after arrival.


In Melbourne, bank officials are board the ship, ready to change currency and offer general financial advice. Immigration officers also board to assist with reception and accommodation.


Representatives of the Good Neighbour Council board advise on settlement in Australia and also express the hope that new migrants will join them later to assist other newcomers.


Migrants without pre-organised accommodation are taken to the Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre, located in farming country, close to the Hume River and the town of Albury.


At the centre, families gather in a canteen for their meals - children are fed first.


A Centre Director welcomes them to Australia. Interpreters and representatives of Adult Education Services, Officers of the Commonwealth Employment Services are also present. Church leaders representing a variety of religions stand nearby.


Social Service representatives register families for a special social benefit payment, paid weekly until employment is found and mothers are given an endowment for each child.


More medical checks, all Australian residents were required to have a regular chest X-Rays as a precaution against TB.


Schooling is provided for children of all ages. Free hospital, medical treatment is available alongside a Creative Leisure Centre containing a library and cinema.


Bonegilla is a transit centre, not a place for continued residence.


“When you leave Bonegilla centre you will be entering community life in Australia,” says the narrator, “with the prospects of sharing with all Australians and those who have come before you, all that has Australia has to offer and also of making your contribution to the future of your new country.”


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