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Research Guides

More People Imperative: Immigration to Australia, 1901–39

10. The Role of Non-Government Organisations

A vast number of non-government voluntary organisations were involved in immigration to Australia during the period from 1901 to 1939, particularly in the 1920s. Many were financially supported by the British and Commonwealth governments after the Empire Settlement Act in 1922 although this assistance was reduced or curtailed with the onset of the depression. Such organisations included the Sydney-based Million Farms Club, the Salvation Army, the Big Brother Movement, the Dreadnought Trustees, the Country Women's Association, the Child Emigration Society (Fairbridge Farm Schools), Dr Barnardo's homes, the British Women's Overseas League, the Boy Scouts' Association, the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations (YMCA and YWCA), the British Empire Service League and the Young Australia League.

The Protestant churches were also very active in migration work. Prominent amongst church groups were the Catholic Immigration Societies of New South Wales and Queensland, the Church of England Society for Empire Settlement, the Church of England Immigration (Migration) Council (or Committee), and St Vincent de Paul. In 1926, the Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalist and Baptist Churches and the Church of Christ together formed the Inter-Church Immigration Committee, coordinating with the YMCA Migration Department. Many of these organisations sponsored juvenile migration and their particular work in this context is treated in Chapter 7. Some Australian associations had parent bodies or branches in Great Britain; others were British associations without branches in Australia, such as the British Dominions Immigration Society, and vice versa.

The New Settlers' League formed in 1921 was one of the best-known organisations in the area of aftercare. Another was the British Settlers' Welfare Committee established in 1931 for the purpose of caring for youth introduced into New South Wales as assisted migrants prior to the depression. These organisations were often supported by the Commonwealth and state governments and by the British government and they nominated immigrants as well as looking after their interests on and after arrival. Several local and occupational bodies had representatives on the New Settlers' League Executive Council, including the Primary Producers' Union, the United British Immigrants' Association, and the West Australian Cornish Association.

In the late 1930s, various voluntary organisations sponsored and assisted refugees. These included the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (Jewish refugees), the Continental Catholic Migrants Welfare Committee (Catholic refugees) and the European Refugee Emergency Committees (non-Aryan Christian refugees), to mention just a few. For more on these organisations, see Chapter 9 on Refugees. All archival records on non-government organisations involved in migration work contain correspondence with various government departments. In the 1920s particularly, this often concerned questions of government funding.

Examples of Series and Items

Series descriptions throughout the Guide appear in upper case and in bold type. Note that descriptions of items within particular series are a selection only of what is held in the National Archives. All record descriptions are organised by series; items within series are listed in chronological order of the starting date they cover.

This series covers a wide range of subjects dealt with by the Prime Minister. The registry practice is at first haphazard but becomes increasingly formalised. A number of files were converted after 1917 into the first and thereafter into the second Secret and Confidential series of the Prime Minister's Department.
Series: A2
Quantity: 20.32 metres
Recorded by: 1904-11: Prime Minister's Office (CA 588); 1911–20: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Prime Minister's Department, File of Papers, 'Immigration – Proposals by Millions Club' [16 pages, 1915]
This contains correspondence between the Millions Club and the Prime Minister, the former urging the government to keep the immigration movement alive through advertising, etc.
A2, 1915/1803
Image 33: Some of the 'propaganda' material published by the Million Farms Campaign Committee.

Image 33: Some of the 'propaganda' material published by the Million Farms Campaign Committee.
NAA: A457, I400/5 part 2
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Image 34: Some of the 'propaganda' material published by the Million Farms Campaign Committee.

Image 34: Some of the 'propaganda' material published by the Million Farms Campaign Committee.
NAA: A457, I400/5 part 2
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Image 35: Some of the 'propaganda' material published by the Million Farms Campaign Committee.

Image 35: Some of the 'propaganda' material published by the Million Farms Campaign Committee.
NAA: A457, I400/5 part 2
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This series consists of correspondence files covering a wide range of subjects which were submitted to the Prime Minister.
Series: A457
Quantity: 18.27 metres
Recorded by: 1915–23: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration encouragement. Pound for Pound subsidy to Approved Private Immigration Schemes, 1921' [3 pages, 1921]
This file relates to a recommendation for a pound for pound subsidy, in addition to the usual contribution to the shipping fares, to all approved immigration schemes conducted by organisations or individuals working outside and independently of government immigration activities, together with the Prime Minister's response.
A457, M400/2
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Million Farms Resolutions.' [243 pages, 1921–22]
This contains resolutions by numerous Shire Councils, Road Boards and agricultural associations endorsing the Million Farms proposals (to put a million farmers on a million farms throughout Australia), copies of which were then forwarded to the Prime Minister. Press cuttings relating to the scheme are also included.
A457, I400/5 Part 1
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Million Farms Campaign – Sir Joseph Carruthers' Scheme' [148 pages, 1921–22]
Correspondence and press cuttings relate to the Million Farms Campaign. Responses from state governments to the scheme are included with the issue of control over land being the most prominent. This file includes maps, booklets, details of Carruthers' plan and notes from a deputation to the Acting Prime Minister.
A457, I400/5 Part 2
Prime Minister's Department, 'Publicity Film for Millions Club Committee' [19 pages, 1922]
This contains correspondence to the Commonwealth Immigration Office from the Million Farms Campaign Committee re films illustrating rural life for propaganda purposes. The films themselves are not included.
A457, L532/3
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Primary Producers Union' [11 pages, 1922]
This contains a letter to the Prime Minister in 1922, from the Primary Producers Union, offering assistance in the settlement of immigrants on the land. The replies advised the Union to co-operate with the New Settlers' League and pointed out that the employment and general welfare of immigrants upon arrival in Australia was a matter for the States.
A457, U400/5
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Lancashire Association of South Australia' [21 pages, 1923]
This refers to a request by the Lancashire Association of South Australia in May 1923 to display details of its meetings on noticeboards at the General Post Office and Outer Harbour Post Office in Adelaide. The request was at first refused owing to the precedent it might set. The matter was then raised in the House of Representatives by Mr Yates, Member for Adelaide, (Hansard extract included) and a noticeboard subsequently provided for information about all societies prepared to welcome and assist new arrivals to South Australia.
A457, AE400/5
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration encouragement. Arrangements on behalf of Immigrants. Reception of Catholic Immigrants' [10 pages, 1923]
This contains correspondence to the Secretary, Department of Home and Territories from L J Dew desiring that St Vincent de Paul be supplied with the names of Catholic immigrants. Replies are enclosed, intimating that such information was not supplied but was available at State Immigration Offices.
A457, P400/1
Image 36: A Salvation Army Migration Scheme pamphlet welcoming new arrivals on the <em>SS Vedic</em>.

Image 36: A Salvation Army Migration Scheme pamphlet welcoming new arrivals on the SS Vedic.
NAA: A461, F349/1/1
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This series precedes series A461 (described earlier in this chapter) and contains general correspondence files covering the range of subjects that came to the Prime Minister's attention in this period.
Series: A458
Quantity: 49.77 metres
Recorded by: 1923–34: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration. New Settlers' League, Victorian Branch' [1 cm, 1921–32]
This contains a report on the formation of the New Settlers' League, Victorian Branch, in 1921 and an invitation to the Prime Minister to address the Annual Conference of the League. While there are a few records for the years 1921–29, most of the file deals with the question of continued Commonwealth and State financial contributions to the activities of the League (and the Big Brother Movement) in migrant welfare for the period 1930–32. In the context of discussions over the termination of the £34 million Agreement, the issue of aftercare obligations of the Australian governments for assisted migrants was raised. There are also two booklets on the New Settlers' League of Australia, Victorian Division, Constitution, Aims and Objects and the Eighth Annual Report, July 1929.
A458, C154/18
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Miscellaneous Policies. Anglican Church Scheme' [2 pages, 1923]
This contains a letter from F A Ray in December 1923, to the Governor-General, bringing to his attention the formation of the Church of England Immigration Committee for Victoria. The purpose of the Committee was to facilitate migration to Victoria under the auspices of the Anglican Church and to bring out monthly, 30 lads, 14 to 18 years of age, 20 men, 18 to 20, and 30 domestic servants. The migrants were to be selected in London by the Church Army, acting on behalf of the Committee and would be medically inspected. The lads would be drawn mainly from the Church Army Training Farm and the rural districts of Great Britain, and the women would receive training from the Church Army under their agreement with the Overseas Settlement Department of the Colonial Office. On arrival, the migrants would again be medically examined to ensure fitness for their occupations and the Church of England would provide pastoral care and supervision. The reply is included.
A458, J154/15
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Oversea Settlement Scheme. Agreement between British government & YMCA' [12 pages, 1923–24]
This contains a memorandum of 5 February 1924, on a Proposed Scheme of co-operation between the YMCA in Britain and Overseas Churches and other Organisations interested in Migration within the Empire. A letter of December 1923 refers to an Agreement made under the provisions of the Empire Settlement Act 1922, between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the National Council of the YMCA, for the payment for one year of the expenses of two representatives of the Association to organise and develop the 'Collective Nomination' Scheme mentioned in the memorandum. Other letters in the file refer to the carrying out of this work.
A458, E154/12
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Salvation Army – Financial' [44 pages, 1923–27]
This relates to Commonwealth subsidies towards the migration work of the Salvation Army in 1924. Correspondence concerns a number of proposals submitted by the Army with a view to increasing the number of migrants it sponsored to Australia. These included the collection of passage money loans advanced to migrants travelling under its auspices; the annual subsidy by the Commonwealth Government towards the expenses incurred by the Army; and the contribution towards the cost of the migration to Australia of war widows and families selected and cared for by the Army.
A458, J154/4
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. New Settlers' League. Financial. Part 2.' [2.5 cm, 1923–30]
This file relates to the financial arrangements between the state and Federal governments in order to meet expenditure by the New Settlers' League (NSL) in each state for the period 1923 until 1930. It contains information on action taken to recover loans from migrants whose payments were in arrears, copies of reports on Immigration Accounting work and Collection of Loans, South Australia, and Land Settlement Agreement Accounts in Western Australia, and correspondence relating to the Commonwealth subsidy to the state branches of the New Settlers' League and the Ugly Men's Association, Western Australia. In 1927, subsidies to the League were as follows: Victoria £1 500, Western Australia, £1 250, New South Wales and Queensland, £1 000 each, and Tasmania £250. In that year the Development and Migration Commission carried out an investigation into the activities of various auxiliary organisations and the government subsidies they received. A memorandum on the subject is included. As a result of the decline in assisted migration and the difficult financial position generally, the Commonwealth subsidy was reduced in 1929–30. The reduction was common to all auxiliary migration organisations. Representations from the New Settlers' League, Western Australia, and various supporters in parliament and elsewhere followed.
A458, G154/18 part 2
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. YAL Albury Branch' [7 pages, 1925]
This refers to a request for assistance from the Albury branch of the Young Australia League (YAL) for the purchase of a hostel and clubrooms for use as a distributing base for young male immigrants. The reply directed the YAL to the NSW State government.
A458, N154/19
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration. Grants to Voluntary Organisations' [1 page, 1930]
This contains a memorandum on the subsidies paid to voluntary organisations for the aftercare of migrants with the information required for a report on the subject.
A458, I154/5
Image 37: Prospective immigrants were given information in booklets such as this, published in England in 1929 by the Salvation Army.

Image 37: Prospective immigrants were given information in booklets such as this, published in England in 1929 by the Salvation Army.
NAA: A1, 1932/7662
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This series consists of general correspondence files which cover the wide range of subjects that came to the Prime Minister's attention. Many earlier papers from the previous general correspondence of the Department have been top-numbered into this series. The series also contains constitutional material dating back to 1901.
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration. Salvation Army' [1.5 cm, 1921–38]

This file begins with correspondence relating to a Salvation Army scheme for the immigration of widows and children, particularly of ex-service widows with more than one child in 1921. The migration work of the Salvation Army, especially with regard to female domestic servants and farm lads, expanded considerably in the 1920s, in co-operation with the Commonwealth Immigration Office. Major James Imrie was in charge of the Immigration Department of the Army in Australia at this time. Concern was expressed by the New South Wales government in 1922 that this work might conflict with their own. An agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and the Army for the migration and settlement of families in April 1923. Information on requisitions from the Salvation Army and travel arrangements are included and the question of the repatriation of unsuitable immigrants was raised in 1925. Schemes under the Empire Settlement Act for the settlement and training of boys and single women in Canada, New Zealand and Australia by the Salvation Army were approved in 1927 and copies of the agreements are enclosed. The Army took responsibility for employment and welfare for a period of three years (four years for widows) after arrival.

An investigation into the activities of the Salvation Army (as for other organisations) and the question of future government subsidies was undertaken by the Migration and Development Commission in 1928. Further cablegrams and information on migrants sponsored by the Salvation Army and their distribution in Australia for the late 1920s and early 1930s is included. Owing to the cessation of assisted migration, the Central Migration Office of the Army closed in July 1932 and its staff transferred to other departments. The Office had opened in 1927 under the direction of Brigadier H J Wright. There is some correspondence from General Evangeline Booth in 1927. The migration activities of the Army resumed in 1938 with nominations for 120 household workers and 120 farm workers and renewed interest in child migration.

A461, F349/1/1
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. YMCA. Financial' [30 pages, 1924–29]
An application was received from the YMCA in 1924 for an annual subsidy of £1 000 towards the cost of developing the Church un-named nomination scheme. The scheme which provided for churches and other approved public bodies in Australia to nominate un-named persons whom the YMCA would select in conjunction with churches and other organisations in England, was adopted by the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The British Government agreed to give an amount commensurate with the Commonwealth contribution, provided families rather than single men were nominated. A Sydney Morning Herald report, 27 March 1926, on the development of the scheme is included. In 1927, the YMCA applied to increase the subsidy but owing to a Commonwealth investigation into the activities of the various auxiliary and voluntary organisations interested in overseas settlement, the increase was not granted but the existing subsidy was maintained in view of the work being achieved. The same decision was made in connection with the Salvation Army. The subsidy was, however, reduced in 1928 and terminated at the British end in 1929, a move explained by officials as caused by the decline in the number of assisted immigrants and the onset of the depression. A contribution was still paid to the association for its Australian work.
A461, D349/1/1
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration. Unofficial Schemes' [2 cm, 1925–39]
This file contains a number of proposals for immigration and land settlement by individuals which were considered by the government but seldom acted upon. For example, the Banana Sectional Group Committee, Queensland, criticised agricultural immigration in 1925 and advocated the bringing out of first-class artisans for training; the Town Clerk, Cardwell Shire Council, in 1926 suggested the development of an area near Ravenshoe, North Queensland, for dairying; schemes were proposed to develop 40 000 acres near Bundaberg for tobacco growing, to bring out Irish labourers, Russian peasants, artisans of various kinds, and Jamaican cultivators. There were various plans to settle North-Western and Central Australia by religious groups and Jewish refugees, to establish co-operative farming schemes in North Queensland, and settle Western Australia under a Yampi Sound Development scheme. Several group migration schemes were proposed, one by an agricultural organisation in England called the Land Settlement Association Ltd.; another by a G A Jones outlined in his book It Can Be Done. Replies to each are included.
A461, D349/1/2 part 2
This series was the main correspondence file system of the agencies shown above. The subject matter includes administrative and personal matters as well as the following functions administered by the agencies from time to time: immigration and emigration, 'aliens' registration, naturalisation, passports (except 1916–18), influx of criminals, indentured coloured labour, people of races for whom special laws were thought necessary, external affairs (1903–16), Pacific islands (1903–16) as well as other matters not relevant to this Guide.
Series: A1
Quantity: 184.92 metres
Recorded by: 1903–16: Department of External Affairs, Melbourne (CA 7); 1916–28: Department of Home and Territories (CA 15); 1928–32: Department of Home and Territories (CA 24); 1932–38: Department of the Interior (CA 27)
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'Catholic Immigration Society New South Wales' [123 pages, 1928–30]
This file refers to representations made to the Department of Labour and Industry and to the Development and Migration Commission for the introduction of Catholic migrants (domestics and farm lads) by Father Nicol, Bishop of Lismore, New South Wales. Part of the proposal was that Father Nicol should visit Great Britain to recruit the migrants then return to Australia and ensure their successful reception and employment. The Catholic Emigration Society and the Oversea Settlement Committee deemed this unnecessary when the matter was first taken up with them. The time was also considered inopportune. It was suggested that the Diocese of Lismore submit nominations for domestic servants and establish an organisation for adequate reception and welfare in New South Wales. This suggestion was not taken up but arrangements for the mission to England proceeded with some donations and government support towards the cost of his passage. The visit, however, was subsequently cancelled.
A1, 1932/7362
Department of Home and Territories, 'Catholic Immigration, Queensland' [28 pages, 1929–30]
The file concerns the reorganisation of the Catholic Immigration Society of Queensland in 1929 and subsequent communications with government departments and other bodies about its future role in migration work. The file contains letters to and from the Department of the Interior, the Development and Migration Commission and the Inter-church Immigration Committee, minutes of meetings of the Society, its draft constitution, the constitution of the New Settlers' League and a conference report on Auxiliary Migration Activities in Victoria from the New Settlers' League.
A1, 1932/7421
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'British Dominions Immigration Society. Inquiry re Activities, Migration B' [15 pages, 1933]
At a time when migration activities were at a low ebb, the Oversea Settlement Department in London examined various aspects of migration and settlement policy. Future relations with various voluntary organisations was one of these aspects. This file contains opinions from various sources on the activities of the British Dominions Emigration Society in relation to whether its activities should be encouraged in the future. The Society was most involved in the recruitment of boys for South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland before World War I. Replies indicated that little was known in Australia about the Society and that it had confined its activities to the British end.
A1, 1938/13788
This series consists mainly of correspondence files, but contains a variety of records, including notes, memoranda, statistics, maps, charts, printed books, pamphlets, minutes and other types of papers, covering all aspects of the work of the Commission. Many of the records are of specific investigations conducted by the Commission.
Series: CP211.2
Quantity: 23.94 metres
Recorded by: 1926–30: Development and Migration Commission (CA 243)
Development and Migration Commission, 'Voluntary organisations Report by Mr T H Garrett on activities of voluntary organisations in migration in Australia. Fairbridge Farm, Salvation Army, Returned Soldiers League and Welfare Societies in the various States' [One Box and files of 5 cm, 1926–30]

This contains reports of relevance to migration generally, for example, that of Senator Pearce on Migration, 1927, and Progress Reports of the Royal Commission on Rural Settlement, South Australia, 1925. On voluntary organisations, there are two folders. One contains 12 pages on the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia mainly related to employment and the work of the League in aftercare for ex-Imperial servicemen from Great Britain and India. The other, of 215 pages are separated into the following sections:

  1. the Salvation Army whose migration activities were non-sectarian, involved all states except Tasmania and the Northern Territory and included families, domestic servants, farm youth, widows and children, the last two given special attention. Information on the Training farm for boys at Riverview, Queensland and Brightview Lodge in Western Australia, statements of income and expenditure, a copy of the agreement between the British government and the Salvation Army under the Empire Settlement Act 1922, correspondence on government assistance, booklets, application forms and other details of the Salvation Army Immigration, Settlement and Shipping Department are included.
  2. The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA).
  3. The 1927 report on voluntary organisations by T H Garrett, which includes information on the New Settlers' League, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, the Church of England Immigration Council, Barnardo Homes (New South Wales), Dreadnought Trustees, Lady Musgrave Lodge (Queensland), the Boy Scouts (Victoria), the Victoria League (Victoria) and the Big Brother Movement. Four booklets produced by the New Settlers' League are also included.
CP211/2, Bundle 98/NN
This series consists of individual case files dealing with naturalisation, resettlement, deportation and applications for passports. There are also some general files (for example, reports, building project plans, policy on transit visas, etc).
Series: A444
Recorded by: 1951–52: Department of Immigration, Central Office (CA 51)
Department of Immigration, Central Office, 'Millions Club of NSW' [45 pages, 1939–51]
This file contains a notification of the formation in 1939 of a 'Millions for Australia' League by the Millions Club of New South Wales. Memoranda and letters indicate the interest of the Club in helping to foster post-World War II British immigration. There is also a proposal for a Community Settlement Scheme for British Migrants.
A444, 1951/16/3089