Reaching Safer Shores

Dr. Robbie Lloyd

Most countries which fought in World War Two were devastated by the loss of life and of infrastructure resulting from world wide military destruction. Australia may not have suffered major damage by comparison, although Darwin was hit massively. However our troop losses were large and we would have needed a long time to recover without inviting newcomers.

Meanwhile our leaders saw the value in inviting people from all over the much more ravaged parts of the world, to come and join us in building new lives “down under,” while decreasing the pressure on their attempts to rebuild. So began the arrival between 1945-65 of two million immigrants (according to the National Museum of Australia, when our total population in 1945 was 7.4 million), the majority of whom were refugees from “war torn” countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and beyond.

“Populate or Perish” was the catchry then, and it had strong undertones of concern at the time, about the rise of Communism among our Asian neighbours, ironically, as most of them have since developed into super successful capitalist economies.

Jewish Europeans, English migrants, Greeks, Italians, Lebanese, and later Vietnamese and other Asian neighbours began the great migration south – many by boat.

But since the Tampa affair in August 2001 under the Howard Government, refugees have been turned into a dirty word in Australia. The Liberal National Party has successfully wedged the Labor Party into agreeing with a damned and damning policy of persecuting those seek our assistance and support, coming by boat from war torn ravaged countries.

What we all need to do now is to go back to our earlier pattern of welcome, in the words of our National Anthem “for those who’ve come from across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share.” The evidence is clear in multiple reports that refugees build our economy, create jobs, boost productivity, and contribute richly to our culture and social make-up. Let’s open up our shores again.