Populate or Perish

The Japanese conducted air raids on Darwin in 1942. This made Australia acutely aware that its expansive borders and population of just 7m people left it vulnerable to attack. The Curtin government realized that Australia needed to “Populate or Perish”. It put plans in place for a large-scale immigration program (Ten Pound Poms scheme).


Arthur Calwell

Arthur Calwell was the Minister of Immigration in 1945. He was a staunch advocate of the White Australia Policy and was responsible for implementing the Ten Pound Poms assisted passage scheme. Calwell understood the importance of the media and often appeared on government propaganda news reels to manage public perception and fears around White Australia’s new immigration policy. He was responsible for hatching a plan to bring a batch of ‘Beautiful Balts’ to Australia. Calwell looked for young immigrants from the Baltic States, with fair hair and blue eyes… to satisfy the demands of the Australian public. In 1946 Calwell hinted that ‘for every foreign migrant there will be ten people from the United Kingdom.’

Ten Pound Poms

The Ten Pound Poms scheme is also known as the Assisted Passage scheme. Both the Australian and British governments subsidized the scheme, though Britain gradually reduced its contribution to the fare after 1950, down to £150,000 per year (enough to pay for around 1,000 migrants). Regardless of whether the journey to Australia was made by ship or by plane the cost of the fare was only £10. As a result, thousands of Ten Pound Poms jumped at the chance to exit post-war Britain and move down under to a land of opportunity, growth, prosperity and optimism. Over 400,000 Britons signed up for the scheme in the first year.

Australian High Commission

Australian High Commission in London

Upon arrival in Australia the government arranged transit, reception, accommodation and employment for the Ten Pound Poms. Australia organised Holding centres, transit camps and migrant hostels such as the Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre.



The living conditions in the migrant hostels were often poor and jobs were not always available. The marketing campaign in the UK with its colourful posters and brochures had been somewhat deceiving! Around a quarter of a million Poms returned home within a few years of arriving in Australia. However, many of these subsequently changed their mind and returned to Australia (see Boomerang Poms).

The Ten Pound Poms scheme ended in 1972, by which time over a million Britons had emigrated to Australia.

Are you a Ten Pound Pom (child or adult)? Perhaps you migrated to Australia more recently or you are planning to migrate in the near future. If so, why not share your photos, memories and experiences in the Ten Pound Pom forums.

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