Stories from our collection

Discover some fascinating personal stories of convicts, migrants and refugees. You can also share your own migration story and help contribute to a greater understanding of Australia’s rich migration heritage.

Group of migrants on MV Toscana at Trieste, 1954

Image: Group of migrants on MV Toscana at Trieste, 1954. ANMM Collection Gift from Barbara Alysen

Christopher Tomlinson

Christopher Tomlinson
Arrived 1831 from England

Christopher Tomlinson was one of many ‘convict juveniles’ who passed through the Barracks system in Sydney in the 1830s. He had been sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing some shoes when he was 10 years old. Christopher was transported from London to Sydney on Camden in 1831.

Image: Christopher Tomlinson, 1830s

Image of Bathsheba Ghost memorial

Bathsheba Ghost
Arrived 1839 from England

The intriguingly named Bathsheba Ghost overcame the stain of a convict past to become one of the most prominent – and best-paid – women workers in the mid-19th-century colony of New South Wales.

Image: Bathsheba Ghost memorial, Newtown. Photo by Jeffery Mellefont

Sarah Simpson

Sarah Simpson
Arrived 1860 from England

Fifteen-year-old Sarah Simpson arrived in Sydney in 1860 as an assisted British immigrant. She sailed alone from England on Dirigo to join her father and sister who had already emigrated to Sydney. Sarah’s father wanted to start a new life for his family in Australia.

Image: Sarah Simpson, 1860s

Taam Szi Pui

Taam Sze Pui
Arrived 1877 from China

In 1877 Taam Sze Pui travelled from China to Australia with his father and brother after they heard that gold had been discovered in Cooktown, Queensland. He later became a labourer on a sugar plantation and then a successful merchant, establishing See Poy & Sons department store in Innisfail.

Image: Taam Sze Pui, 1877–1926, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Lily Knapton

Lily Knapton
Arrived 1909 from England

Eight-year-old Lily Knapton and her mother departed Liverpool, England, on Runic in 1909. They were migrating to Australia to join Lily’s father, who was working as a tailor in Melbourne, Victoria.

Image: Lily Knapton, c 1909, ANMM Collection Gift from Gary McPherson

Charles Scott

Charles Scott
Arrived 1924 from England

Charles Scott migrated to Australia with the Dreadnought Scheme for youth migrants in 1924. He was 18 years old and sailed on Euripides. The Dreadnought Scheme recruited British youths to be trained on Australian farms and to help populate Australia’s wide open spaces with young people of British stock.

Image: Charles Scott, 1920s, ANMM Collection Gift from Robin Scott

Ronald Smith

Ronald Smith
Arrived 1961 from England

Sixteen-year-old Ronald Smith travelled to Australia in 1961 with the Barnardo’s child migration scheme. He sailed from Tilbury to Sydney on Stratheden and was taken to the Barnardo’s Tooloogan Vale training farm at Scone in the NSW Hunter Valley.

Image: Ronald Smith (centre), c 1961, ANMM Collection Gift from Ronald Smith

The Lederer family

The Lederer family
Arrived 1939 from Austria

Arthur and Valerie Lederer and their 16-year-old son Walter fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938. Arthur was a talented tailor who made gala uniforms for European society. The Lederer family arrived in Australia on Orama in 1939 after Arthur received help from one of his well-connected clients.

Image: Arthur, Valerie and Walter Lederer, 1930s, ANMM Collection Gift from Walter and Jean Lederer
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

Mall Juske

Mall Juske
Arrived 1949 from Estonia

Thirteen-year-old Mall Juske migrated from Estonia to Australia with her parents on Cyrenia in 1949. The family had lived in a displaced persons camp in Germany for nearly three years. They migrated through the Displaced Persons’ Resettlement Scheme, which resettled more than 170,000 Europeans in Australia from 1947–53.

Image: Mall Juske, 1990s

Eva Warhurst as a child

Eva Warhurst (nee Reid)
Arrived 1950 from England

Eva Warhurst (née Reid) was the sixth of a family that would grow to 18 children. To ease the financial burden of a large family it was agreed that Eva, aged 10, along with one sister and three brothers were to be sent to Australia as part of the British child migration schemes operating at the time.

Image: Eva Reid, 1950. Courtesy of Eva and Jim Reid

Norman, Enid and Vandra Hoiles embark for Australia on SS Ontranto in 1950

Norman and Enid Hoiles
Arrived 1950 from England

Norman ‘Vic’ Hoiles, his wife Enid and daughter Vandra were one family that took a chance and sailed to Australia as ‘ten-pound Poms’.

Image: Norman, Enid and Vandra Hoiles embark for Australia on SS Otranto in 1950. Courtesy of Vandra Mellers.

Llia Seiz Pocrnja

The Seiz family
Arrived 1955 from China

Ilia Seiz Pocrnja and his wife Katherine fled from Russia to China before migrating to Australia on Tjibadak in 1955. When they arrived, the word ‘stateless’ was stamped on their immigration papers, even though they had lived in both Russia and China.

Image: Ilia Seiz Pocrnja, early 1900s, ANMM Collection Gift from Natalie Seiz

Rob Davids

Rob Davids
Arrived 1952 from Holland

Rob Davids was 13 years old when he migrated from Holland to Australia with his mother and two brothers in 1952. Rob did not want to leave and has vivid memories of farewelling his grandparents from the wharf in Amsterdam. The family travelled to Sydney on Johan van Oldenbarnevelt.

Image: Rob Davids, 1941, Reproduced courtesy Rob Davids

Gina Sinozich

Gina Sinozich
Arrived 1957 from Croatia

Like many refugees after World War 2, artist Gina Sinozich abandoned her homeland for a destination she knew almost nothing about. From 1956–57, she and her family made the voyage from Croatia to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on Neptunia. Gina wanted a more secure future for her children.

Image: Gina Sinozich, 1940s

Vaughan Evans

Vaughan Evans
Arrived 1955 from England

Vaughan Evans always wanted to travel to Australia or New Zealand. In 1955 he took advantage of the Australian Government’s post-war assisted migration scheme and paid £10 for passage on New Australia. The British migrants who travelled under this scheme were later nicknamed ‘Ten Pound Poms’.

Image: Vaughan Evans, 1955, ANMM Collection Gift from Vaughan Evans

Teruko Blair

Teruko Blair
Arrived 1953 from Japan

While waitressing at the Australian Army officer’s mess in Kure, Japan, Teruko Blair met and fell in love with Warrant Officer Bill Blair. Teruko and Bill married in 1953. Later that year Teruko joined other Japanese war brides on Taiping bound for Australia.

Image: Teruko and Bill Blair, 1950s, Reproduced courtesy Teruko Blair

Lina Cesarin

Lina Cesarin
Arrived 1956 from Italy

In 1951 Lina Cesarin bid farewell to her fiancé Rizzieri as he set sail for Australia in search of work and ‘la bella vita’. Rizzieri promised to send for Lina when he was established. Five years later Lina travelled from Italy on Neptunia to marry her sweetheart in Sydney.

Image: Lina Cesarin, 1950s

The Lu family

The Lu family
Arrived 1977 from Vietnam

In 1977 Tan Lu and his family arrived in Darwin on a fishing boat that Tan had built specifically to escape Communist Vietnam. The Lu family travelled 6,000 kilometres from Vietnam to Australia guided only by a simple compass and a map torn from the lid of a school desk.

Image: The Lu family, 2005, Photographer Andrew Frolows/ANMM

Hedayat Osyan

Hedayat Osyan
Arrived 2009 from Afghanistan

In 2009 17-year-old Hedayat Osyan fled from Afghanistan to Indonesia, where he boarded a small fishing boat which sank en route to Australia. Hedayat was rescued by the Royal Australian Navy and detained on Christmas Island while his refugee status was assessed. He was later resettled in Australia.

Image: Hedayat Osyan, 2012, Photographer Andrew Frolows/ANMM