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Celebrating seventy years of multicultural migration

31 July 20180 comments

The contributions migrants have made to Australia over seven decades is being celebrated in a photographic exhibition and a series of web-based stories compiled by migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia.

The ‘Heartlands 2018: What Makes an Australian’ project showcases how migrants have helped build our nation while carving out new and prosperous lives for themselves and their families.

The project was launched recently with photographic exhibition at Dandenong’s Walker Street Gallery and though a dedicated website carrying migrant stories.

2018 marks 70 years since Australia’s modern migration system was conceived and the nation’s transformation into a vibrant multicultural society began.

In 1948 two seminal things happened. The notion of Australian citizenship was created – before then we were merely British subjects; and, the Immigration Act was changed to effectively allow people from non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds to settle permanently in Australia.

And although the White Australia Policy still had twenty years to run, it was the start of what we know today as our diverse but cohesive modern multicultural society.

AMES Australia is marking the date with a campaign that will see a series of stories, images, events and multi-media initiatives showcasing the contribution migrants have made to our society.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said that migration had “unquestionably helped build our nation and it has undoubtedly shaped the way we live our everyday lives”.

“Ask yourself a few questions: what would you be eating if not for migration? Who would your friends be if not for migration? Would you even be living here if not for migration?” Ms Scarth said.

“So, to highlight the importance of migrants and migration to Australia, we have collected and we are sharing the stories and experiences that migrants and refugees to Australia carry with them.

“The project celebrates and illustrates the cultural richness, innovation, enterprise and resilience that newcomers to our shores have brought,” Ms Scarth said.

One of the stories featured is that of Carmen Calleya-Capp.

On March 31 1958 – just nine days after her fourth birthday – the passenger ship bringing migrant Carmen from her home in Malta to Australia caught fire and sank in the Indian Ocean.

Carmen’s family survived the sinking and went on to build their lives in Melbourne.

“The decision to leave you home is never easy, even when you opting for a chance at a better life. It’s a risk. It’s an economic risk but also an emotional risk that families take when they set out to make a new life,” Carmen said.

“I can only image how my parents felt in that lifeboat. The decision to come to Australia and to protect their family must have weighed heavily on their minds. But their decision to come gave me all of the opportunities that Australia has offered,’ she said.

The ‘Heartlands 2018: What Makes an Australian’ can be seen at the Walker Street Gallery, cnr Walker and Robinson Streets, Dandenong, until August 10.

The stories can be seen here:





Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist