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More People Imperative: Immigration to Australia, 1901–39


9. Refugees

In the period from 1901 to 1939, the issue of refugee immigration to Australia did not loom large until the late 1930s when, owing to the policies of the Third Reich, large numbers of refugees in Europe were desperately seeking new homes. There are some records, however, relating to refugees in earlier years such as Russians after World War I and refugees from the Spanish Civil War after 1936. The admission of refugees in the late 1930s conformed to the same principles as those governing the entry of 'white aliens' (non-British European migrants) into Australia where landing permits with various conditions of guarantors, landing money and occupations were required. The Inter-Governmental Conference on Refugees at Evian Les Bains in France in July 1938 was a major international development and refugee immigration to Australia became increasingly regulated over the following months until the outbreak of World War II .

A number of associations were set up to sponsor and assist refugees. The Australian Jewish Welfare Society was established to assist Jewish refugees to come to Australia by giving maintenance guarantees and finding employment. The German Emergency Fellowship Committee, formed by Camilla Wedgwood and Dr Lemberg in February 1937, introduced a small number of non-Aryan Christians (of partial Jewish race) for agricultural work or domestic service under certain conditions. This became the European Emergency Committee in April 1939, its focus, non-Jewish and non-Catholic refugees. International Refugee Emergency Councils were also formed in 1938 in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, to care for refugees who were non-Jewish by religion and non-Catholic, but they had no real ties with the former group. The Inter-Church Committee for non-Aryan Christian Refugees, which began in October 1938, worked in close collaboration with the European Emergency Committee. It consisted of Church representatives (other than the Roman Catholic Church), and representatives of the Salvation Army, the Society of Friends (Quakers), the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations, and the National Missionary Council of Australia. The Society of Friends also helped those of no religious persuasion. The Continental Catholic Migrants' Welfare Committee, Sydney, which also began operations in 1938, attended to the reception, settlement and aftercare of Catholic refugees. The Australian German Migration Association also dealt with refugees on a non-denominational basis. Many other organisations were formed in the United Kingdom and Europe and worked closely with Australia House in the selection process.

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.

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1903–38
Canberra
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 External Affairs, 'Admission of Refugee Russian and Polish Jews' [7 pages, 1916]
This file relates to a movement by wealthy Jews in England and America to obtain land in various parts of the world for the settlement of Russian Jewish refugees. A letter from the President, British Hebrew Congregation, Brisbane, to the Minister of External Affairs in April 1916, requests information on the possibility of settling Russian and Polish Jews on the land in Australia. The reply made clear that no departure could be made from the practice of admitting only immigrants of European race or descent, in sound health and capable of earning their own living.
A1, 1916/10708
Home and Territories Department, 'Russian Refugees Constantinople. Admission of' [13 pages, 1920–21]
This relates to queries in 1920 from the Russian Embassy about relief to fugitives of Russian armies driven from Karelia into Finland and the question of their admission into British colonies. Information was requested about conditions of land allotments as most were experienced agriculturalists. Further correspondence from the British High Commission, Constantinople (referred to Australia House), mentioned a group of Russian refugees who desired to settle as a self-contained colony but assistance, either financial or by land grants, was needed. The reply was that the Russians could not be admitted. These restrictions had not changed the following year when a similar request came from the International Labour Office, Geneva.
A1, 1922/956
Home and Territories Department, 'Extension to other Categories of refugees of the measures taken to assist Russian and Armenian Refugees' [37 pages, 1927–29]
This contains extracts from 1927 and 1928 council meeting minutes of the League of Nations, on the extension of measures to assist Russian and Armenian refugees to other categories of refugees (Assyrian, Assyro-Chaldean and Turkish) and correspondence from the Secretary-General of the League to governments inviting responses. It includes a 1928 League of Nations report on the refugees mentioned above. Australian officials ascertained the view of the British government before responding themselves.
A1, 1928/45
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'International Status of Russian and Armenian Refugees – League of Nations Convention' [120 pages plus booklets, 1927–36]
This contains various reports, correspondence, resolutions and recommendations of the League of Nations between 1927 and 1936, sent to the Commonwealth for information and, at times, a response. Reports covered Russian, Armenian, Assyrian, Assyro-Chaldean and Turkish Refugees between 1927 and 1935, the future organisation of refugee work (1930), the Inter-governmental Advisory Commission for Refugees (1930 and 1935), International Assistance to Refugees (1935, 1936), and the Nansen International Office for Refugees (1934, 1936). The International Conference for Refugees in 1933 adopted a Final Act, and Convention relating to the International Status of Refugees, copies of which are included. The question of whether the Commonwealth should become a party to the convention was the subject of internal memoranda. Although considered of marginal relevance to Australia, there was no objection to its ratification. A memorandum on the attitude of the British government towards the performance of refugee work by the League of Nations, 1926–33, a questionnaire from the Nansen International Office concerning refugee problems, the appointment of a League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and his letter of resignation, make up the rest of the file.
A1, 1936/2513
Department of the Interior, 'Issue of Travel Documents for Refugees from Germany' [42 pages, 1934]
This refers to travel documents and identity certificates for refugees from Germany who did not possess national papers and contains a list of Home Office documents and principles for their use. It includes recommendations of the High Commissioner for Refugees on facilities for refugees (Jewish and other) from Germany to obtain work, apprenticeships or attend technical schools, and on passports, as well as the views of the British government. Owing to the location of Australia and the very strict control of 'alien immigration', it was considered by the Department of External Affairs that the need to issue such documents would be very small.
A1, 1934/4275
Department of the Interior, 'Catholic Refugees from Europe' [40 pages, 1938–39]
This contains a letter and enclosures from Cardinal Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster, London, to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons in May 1938, on the setting up of a Catholic Committee to assist Catholic refugees and inquiring about conditions under which Catholic refugees from Germany and Austria could be admitted to Australia. The file also includes a November 1938 letter from J A Glynn, President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Ireland, who was interested in helping Austrian Catholic refugees migrate to the British Dominions or South America after 12 months' agricultural training in Ireland. Replies to both set out the normal conditions under which foreign migrants were admitted and outlined openings for skilled artisans, farm workers, domestic workers, qualified architects and engineers. It was also suggested that settlement could be facilitated by the setting up of a Catholic Church organisation in the first case, and in the second, by contacting the newly formed Continental Catholic Migrants' Welfare Committee (CCMWC), which would take responsibility for nominations and maintenance after arrival. The question of reduction of landing money was later raised by the CCMWC. Some of the contents of this file are duplicated in A461, R349/3/5.
A1, 1938/25491
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'Council for Civil Liberties Inquiry re Refugees [66 pages, 1938–39]
This contains a press statement published in the Melbourne Herald, 5 October 1938, on the tightening up of Jewish immigration by the Commonwealth, particularly in relation to Jews arriving in Australia as 'tourists' on return tickets and without landing permits (the suggestion being that they were attempting to evade Australian immigration laws). This provoked a response from the Council for Civil Liberties. Correspondence in the file is between the Council and the Minister for the Interior and contains requests for information about criteria for successful applications, the quota system and other related issues. A copy of the statement on 'European Refugees and their Acceptance in Australia', by the Minister for the Interior in the House of Representatives, 1 December 1938 sent to the Council, and a petition sent to the Minister from the Council are enclosed. A letter containing several questions resulting from the Refugee Immigration Conference of the Council, December 1938, and notification that the Victorian Refugee Immigration Appeals Committee had been set up by the Conference is also included together with a report of the Conference and replies to the questions from the government.
A1, 1938/32877
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1904–20
Canberra
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, 'Russian Refugees' [10 pages, 1917]
This contains an extract from The Bulletin alleging Commonwealth or state assistance for the repatriation of Russian refugees and a request for clarification by the Consul-General for Russia, September 1917. The reply revealed that several State War Councils had taken up collections for the relief of Polish victims of the war and distress among Russian Poles. (The file also contains a seemingly misplaced application of December 1917 from an Indian manufacturer to send an agent to Australia for a certain period in order to introduce manufactured material.)
A2, 1917/3354
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES FIRST SYSTEM, 1915–23
Canberra
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. Immigration of Jewish Refugees' [14 pages, 1921]
This contains a memorandum submitted by a deputation from the Joint Foreign Committee of Jewish Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association forwarded by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in May 1921 regarding facilities for the emigration to the Dominions and elsewhere of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, especially Jews escaping from the Ukraine into Poland and adjacent countries. The reply from H S Gullett, Superintendent of Immigration, was that it would be unwise to admit them, owing to the numbers of unemployed already in Australia and the British ex-servicemen to be admitted. Other internal correspondence in the file states more explicitly that government policy did not permit the entry of Russians and that no encouragement could be given.
A457, H400/5
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'H' INFIX, 1926–50
Perth
This series contains general records of functions in connection with migration, covering reports by the Boarding Branch, Customs Department, in respect of all vessels, showing persons coming under notice through the provisions of the Immigration Act; details of the activities of the Social Welfare Branch; applications for naturalisation; applications for Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test; applications for admission to Australia as a migrant; nominal rolls of migrants supplied by overseas posts on the departure of vessels; reports on unsuitable migrants and action taken in respect of deportees; general correspondence; reports on immigration centres, Northam and Cunderdin; and applications for permanent residence by persons who have entered the country illegally. From May 1926 to May 1946 all immigration work was carried out by the Customs Department and records were maintained by them. With the establishment of the Immigration Department in Perth in May 1946, all files were transferred from Customs to Immigration. Files prior to 1926 are believed to have been destroyed.
Series: PP6/1
Quantity: 20.16 metres
Recorded by: 1926–45: Collector of Customs, WA, (from 1985) Australian Customs Service, WA (CA 808); 1945–50: Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch (CA 962)
Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch, 'Instructions re travel documents for German Refugees' [1 page, 1934]
This contains a letter to the Collector of Customs, Fremantle, August 1934, requesting that all applications for travel documents from refugees from Germany be referred to the Department of the Interior. It relates to communications included in file A1, 1934/4275, described above.
PP6/1, 1934/H/581
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1934–50
Canberra
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 from Germany and Austria' [43 pages, 1938–39]
This file duplicates some of the material in A1, 1938/25491, for example, a letter from Cardinal Hinsley, to Prime Minister Lyons, May 1938, on the possibility of admitting German and Austrian Catholic refugees to Australia. A memorandum on 'Roman Catholic Refugees from Austria and Germany – Question of Facilities to Migrate to Australia' (August 1938) and the reply to the Cardinal are included. There are also letters from the Duke of Devonshire concerning German Social Democrat refugees from the Sudeten areas and an individual application, information on these refugees, and the attitudes of other governments. There is also correspondence between J A Glynn, President of the Irish Council of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and the Prime Minister on Austrian Catholic refugees.
A461, R349/3/5
Prime Minister's Department, 'European Refugees Admission to Australia' [2 pages – several copies thereof, 1938]
This file contains several copies of the one undated 2–page statement on 'European Refugees. Admission to Australia'. Although not explained in this file, it is a statement by the Minister for the Interior, the Hon. John McEwen given in parliament and reproduced in the press, (see Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 1 December 1938) on the decision to admit 15 000 refugees over the following three years, the justification for the decision and the conditions under which the refugees were to be admitted.
A461, Y349/3/5
Prime Minister's Department, 'Proposed Settlement of Jewish Refugees, Kimberley District, WA' [Two folders, one 155 pages, the other 63, 1938–44]
The first folder includes proposals to the Prime Minister for a Jewish Settlement in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia by the Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonisation overseas. There is an interim report on the possibilities of the area for closer settlement, various press cuttings, Hansard extracts and data on Jewish farmers and land workers. The second folder contains correspondence and press cuttings from 1938 onwards, both supporting and opposing the Jewish settlement of Australia's north-west, presenting arguments on the one hand of helping to solve problems of defence, population distribution and refugees, and on the other of the dangers of forming alien colonies and the limitations of closer settlement in the north. The question of the visit of Isaac Steinberg of the Freeland League in 1939, and responses of the Commonwealth Government (in relation to the Northern Territory) and the Western Australian Government to the settlement are included. The rest of the file concerns the post-1939 period.
A461, D349/3/5 part 1
Prime Minister's Department, 'Employment of Refugees' [67 pages, 1938–39]
This contains a protest from the Amalgamated Engineering Union, in December 1938, concerning an agreement between the Jewish Association and the Electrical Traders' Association, Western Australia, whereby award wage would be paid but £2 per week refunded to the employer as an incentive to employ Jewish immigrants. Fear was expressed that Jews would displace Australians in industry. The allegation of preferential treatment for Jews was later disproved. Further protests from the Australian Builders Labourers' Federation led to investigations into the employment conditions and wage rates for Jews. The file also contains press extracts and letters on the subject, including one from Dame Mary Gilmore. Concern about the employability of refugees led the New South Wales government in mid-1939 to call for a conference on the whole question of the admission of refugees. Some of this material is also included in A367, C30751, described later in this chapter.
A461, Z349/3/5
Prime Minister's Department, 'New Industries. Establishment by Refugees' [59 pages, 1938–39 (including 6 pages 1946–47)]
This file refers to an approved application in late 1938 by an Austrian manufacturer with substantial capital to migrate to Tasmania. Correspondence and press cuttings relate to whether governments were prepared to support applications by refugees who would establish new industries in towns wanting to secure such industries. It includes information on the British Committee for Sudeten Refugees and the possibilities of industrial group settlement in New South Wales. A memorandum outlines the position of certain Australian industries which might be affected by the introduction of Czech industries but overall the official response appeared to be favourable.
A461, G353/1/1
Image 32: The Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General's Department took an active interest in the make-up of the migrant intake.

Image 32: The Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General's Department took an active interest in the make-up of the migrant intake.
NAA: A432, 1943/1135
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CORRESPONDENCE FILES, CLASS 2 (RESTRICTED IMMIGRATION), 1939–50
Canberra
These files relate to restricted immigration to Australia. Files may contain reports, correspondence, articles, cables, news cuttings, passports, proposed amendments to the Immigration Act, departmental despatches, authorities for admission under exemption (form 32) and deportation orders (form 43B). Restricted immigration covers things such as admission of Asians, coloured persons, business visits, deserters, deportees and undesirables. Files from these series may be top-numbered into series A446, as well as into the subsequent series, A445 and A2998.
Series: A433
Quantity: 8 metres
Recorded by: 1939: Department of the Interior, Central Administration (CA 27); 1939–45: Department of the Interior, Central Office (CA 31)
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'National Council of Jewish Women of Australia. Information re Jewish Immigration, etc.' [22 pages, 1936–43]
This contains letters from the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia in April 1936, requesting information from the Minister of the Interior on Jewish immigration and characteristics and distribution of Jews in Australia, and requests for individual permits. Replies from the Department with immigration legislation and information from the 1933 census, are included.
A433, 1943/2/3378
Department of the Interior. 'R T E Latham. Notes on Refugee problem' [10 pages, 1938–39]
This file consists of notes by R T E Latham dated January 1938 on the situation in Berlin with regard to refugee emigration to Australia. They are concerned partly with the character of the flow of refugees at the time and partly with questions of organisation. They contain several recommendations, notably a reform of the landing money requirement. There is also an accompanying letter to A R Peters.
A433, 1939/2/21
Prime Minister's Department, 'Jews/Refugees congregating in districts' [12 pages, 1939]
This contains a Department of the Interior memorandum of April 1939 relating to applications from 'aliens' for welfare assistance and the possibility of welfare officers making the information available for use in connection with applications for the admission of friends and relatives where financial guarantees were required. A question was also raised regarding the congregating of Jews in districts such as Bondi, King's Cross, Kirribilli and Neutral Bay and their tendency to form colonies. A further memorandum on government policy of May 1939 stated that they should be distributed as widely as possible. Other correspondence in the file was related to following up these issues.
A433, 1939/2/742
Department of the Interior, Society of Friends (Quakers). Admission of youths non-Aryan Christian refugees for farming' [64 pages, 1939]
This file includes a letter from the General Secretary of the Society of Friends (Quakers), Germany Emergency Committee, of March 1939, to Australia House giving background information on the refugee work of the Society, in particular for Christian, non-Aryan refugees or those of no religious persuasion. The letter referred to help given refugee boys of 15 to 18 years of age to work on the land, and a request from Camilla Wedgewood, of the Women's College, Sydney, to the Minister of the Interior in October 1938 as to whether the government could grant facilities for a certain number of refugee boys from Central Europe to be accepted into Australia for land work. No reply had been received. This letter requested that similar facilities as those granted to the Church of England Advisory Council for the introduction of women for domestic service, including landing money concessions, could be given for some 100 refugee boys. Other letters refer to nominations, landing permits and settlement experience of particular boys who came to Australia under this arrangement. With the outbreak of war, the question of the continuation of the scheme for enemy alien lads was raised since most were German or Austrian.
A433, 1944/2/1703
Department of the Interior, 'Refugees (Jewish and Others). General Policy File' [3 cms, 1938–44]
This is an important file on the gradual development of policy on refugee immigration to Australia from 1938. As a result of events in Europe, there was an increasing number of applications by 'aliens' to migrate to Australia. The bulk of these were from Jewish refugees. The file contains press cuttings on the proposed Jewish colony in Western Australia, various press statements and cables, departmental memoranda on Jewish immigration, data on applications and quotas, correspondence between the government and the Australian Jewish Welfare Society on their co-operation and relations with the government, a statement by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (AJWS) in regard to Jewish migration to Australia in October 1938 to correct public misinformation, a general outline of the activities and views of the AJWS, a recommendation by High Commissioner Bruce in November 1938 for Australia to admit 30 000 refugees over three years which was then modified by J A Carrodus to 15 000 (the arrangement to commence in January 1939) and projections on refugee and white alien migration. Policy statements consider the relationships between British and white alien immigration, British immigration with assisted immigration, net white alien immigration with Southern European, and total population increase with natural increase and net migration. They also deal with the question of excluding parents of Jewish refugees from quota restrictions. The file also contains a clarification of the definition of refugee, notes on a deputation to the Minister of the Interior from the AJWS in February 1939, a conference on refugee policy between the government and the AJWS in March 1939, and a memorandum on Jewish Refugee Child Migration in August 1939.
A433, 1943/2/46
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'European Refugees. Views of Public re Admittance' [123 pages, 1938–39]
This file contains various letters to the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior on the public response to refugee immigration. (This section of the file is outlined more fully in Chapter 11 on Australian Attitudes to Immigration.) Two 1938 parliamentary statements are included: Minister for the Interior, the Hon. John McEwen's 'European Refugees. Admission to Australia' (Hansard, 1 December 1938) and another on the introduction of 'aliens' (29 November 1938). There is also a cutting from the West Australian, 7 June 1939 reporting Hal Colebatch (Agent General for Western Australia) urging an improved method of selection for alien refugees.
A433, 1943/2/4588
Department of Immigration, File of Papers, 'Registration of German and Austrian Refugees' [10 pages, 1939]
This contains a copy of a questionnaire which new arrivals had to complete for the German Consul and an announcement in the Juedische Nachrichtenblatt of 14 July 1939 suggesting that intending migrants to Australia should report to the German Consulate after arrival in Australia to complete the form. These were extracts from a personal letter dated August 1939, forwarded to the Department of the Interior from the Secretary of the Department of Defence, drawing attention to the comprehensive nature of the questions.
A433, 1945/2/6057
Department of the Interior, 'Premier of New South Wales. Problem of employment of Alien Refugees (inc. Doctors)' [61 pages, 1939]
This contains press cuttings from a number of newspapers (Daily TelegraphSunMelbourne Herald, and the Sydney Morning Herald) with headlines such as 'Alien Doctors', 'Refugee Doctors', 'Ban colonies of aliens', 'Ban on German doctors', 'No Black Hand in North', 'Alien Migrants' and 'Crisis on Alien Doctors'. A letter from B S B Stevens, Premier of New South Wales, to the Prime Minister on 31 July 1939 expressed concern at competition from refugees, calling for a conference of ministerial and official representatives of New South Wales and the Commonwealth to restrict their entry. He favoured the establishment of new industries by refugees but stressed the need for surveillance of their activities after arrival. Stevens' successor, Alex Mair, wrote again on the same subject in October 1939. The reply made clear that refugee doctors could only practise if registered in one of the Australian states. At the time the Medical Board of New South Wales had the power to register a foreign doctor for practice only in a specified region where doctors were needed.
A433, 1939/2/2197
Department of the Interior, 'Refugees 'G' Acceptance of Landing permits, held by German Jewish refugees, by Shipping Coys' [14 pages, 1939–40]
This file relates to a request from the Holland Australia Line, 7 September 1939, as to whether they might still accept German Jewish refugees for Australia, who had landing permits and a British visa, and had already left Germany when war was declared. The reply in the affirmative from the Collector of Customs, Sydney, is included together with further correspondence on this issue during 1940.
A433, 1939/2/2102
Department of the Interior, 'Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees, minutes of Meeting at Washington, 19 October 39' [4 pages plus book, 1939]
This contains a copy of the official minutes of the meeting of Officers of the Inter-governmental Committee of Political Refugees, held in Washington on 17 October 1939, sent to the Department of the Interior, together with accompanying letters.
A433, 1940/2/979
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'Refugees and other aliens – internment during War' [46 pages, 1939–40]
Letters from the Commonwealth Council of Refugee Migration Organisations, August 1939, to the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Defence and of the Interior expressed concern as to the fate of refugees from Germany in the event of war. It was argued that if the government were to class them as enemy 'aliens' they should not be interned (particularly with pro-Nazis) but placed on parole with suitable safeguards and no restrictions placed on their savings. These recommendations were the result of a meeting between representatives of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, the Continental Catholic Migrants' Welfare Committee, the European Emergency Committee (Sydney), the Inter-Church Committee for Non-Aryan Christian Refugees from Germany, and the Victorian International Refugee Emergency Committee. The file contains subsequent interdepartmental correspondence, a summary of the proposed policy of the United Kingdom regarding the treatment of 'enemy aliens', and extracts from the press and Hansard on the same subject. Defence authorities suggested that the welfare organisations listed should supply to the Military Commandants in each district full particulars of refugees they considered genuine and for whom they could vouch. Related issues during the war are covered in the rest of the file.
A433, 1939/2/2030
Department of the Interior, 'Australia-Italia shipping Co. – Carriage of Refugees to Australia' [11 pages, 1938]
This file contains extracts from Hansard on questions relating to 900 Jewish refugees arriving on the Italian liner, Urania, and a quota system for 'alien migrants'. A letter from Lloyd Triestino, the Company which owned the ship, indicated that the liner was not destined for Australia and asked whether an annual quota for refugees had been fixed. A ministerial statement on the issue and the reply to the shipping company are included.
A433, 1940/2/2970
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'Refugee Aid Societies proposed Joint Council' [16 pages, 1939]
This file contains memoranda and minutes of meetings concerning the work of a consultative committee (or Council) formed to deal with questions relating to the immigration of refugees. The Committee comprised representatives of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, the Continental Catholic Migrants' Welfare Committee, the European Emergency Committee, and the Inter-Church Committee. It aimed to bring about closer co-operation between themselves and the Department of the Interior, to consider permit applications and make representations concerning them, and discuss problems as they arose.
A433, 1939/2/1511
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'Spanish Refugees Admission' [69 pages, 1939]
This contains Department of the Interior memoranda and notes on Spanish Refugees (April to July 1939). Representations were made to the Department by the Spanish Relief Committee, the International Peace Campaign and the Victorian Refugee Immigration Appeals Committee which offered to take care of reception, adult employment and homes for children. Issues raised were whether special facilities, especially landing money concessions, could be given, and whether Spanish refugees could be included in the refugee quota of 15 000. The recommendations from the Department were that each application should be considered on its merits and in conformity with the rules which applied to 'aliens' generally, that Spanish refugees not be included in the overall quota for refugees, and that no special encouragement be given. Conditions for the entry of 'aliens' are included in the file. A R Peters suggested that many could be communists and precautions were needed against admitting political extremists. A letter from the International Office for the respect of Rights of Refuge and Assistance to Political Refugees in Paris (June 1939) regarding 350 000 Spanish refugees on French territory and the possible immigration of some to Australia, together with a list of their professions and trades, is included. Letters requesting financial aid and support for Spanish refugee migration to Australia and other countries continued from Spanish Relief Organisations, branches of the Australian Labor Party and individuals.
A433, 1939/2/174
Department of the Interior, File of Papers, 'Unemployed Refugees – Economic Circumstances' [64 pages, 1939–40]
This contains notes of a Deputation to the Minister for Labour and Industry and the Minister for Agriculture (February 1939) from the Refugee Emergency Council of New South Wales in relation to migrant employment and notes of an interview between T H Garrett, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Interior, and C J Bellemore, Under Secretary, Department of Labour and Industry, Sydney (March 1939) on refugee unemployment. It also contains press reports on refugee unemployment and letters to the government requesting assistance. Particulars on applicants for assistance to the European Emergency Committee and an economic survey form are included. There is also a 15-page report by A L Nutt on Economic Circumstances of Refugees in Sydney and a summary of the report. This report contains as much information on the welfare organisations, their histories and financial positions, as on the refugees themselves. It concluded that unemployment was more common amongst non-Jewish, non-Catholic refugees than Jews or Catholics. Following these investigations, the Inter-Church Committee in February 1940 proposed to open a hostel for migrants and refugees of non-Jewish origin.
A433, 1940/2/103
THE 'SHEDDEN COLLECTION' [RECORDS COLLECTED BY SIR FREDERICK SHEDDEN DURING HIS CAREER WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE AND IN RESEARCHING THE HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE POLICY], TWO NUMBER SERIES, 1901–71
Canberra
This series contains records collected by Sir Frederick Shedden (CP 320) during his career within the Department of Defence. It also contains material collated after his retirement in researching and writing a book on the History of Australian Defence Policy. The manuscript of his book was not published at his death on 8 July 1971. Drafts of his work are held in this series together with copies of departmental correspondence, files, reports and press cuttings. Copies of War Cabinet and Advisory War Council records are also held. This series is the major part of a larger accumulation of records, the remainder of which, including the manuscript of the history, formed part of Sir Frederick Shedden's personal estate.
Series: A5954
Quantity: 109.9 metres
Recorded by: 1937–39: Department of Defence (CA 19)
Department of Defence, 'The Monthly Summary of the League of Nations, October 1936. Appointment by the Assembly of a Committee to Study the Reform of the Covenant. Assistance to Refugees' [Booklet only, 1939] A5954, 2374/45
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, CLASS 1 (GENERAL, PASSPORTS), 1939–50
Canberra
The description of this series will extend beyond 1939 because of its potential interest to immigration researchers. It contains the general correspondence files of the Department of the Interior [II] until late 1945, and from mid-1945 the miscellaneous and passport files of the then newly-created Department of Immigration. From 1930 to 1945, the series covers a wide range of subjects including assisted migration and naturalisations (until 31 December 1943). Naturalisation applications reached a peak during 1941. With the establishment of the Department of Immigration in July 1945, the series was recorded jointly by Interior and Immigration for the rest of that year. From 1946, the series relates exclusively to Immigration matters as that Department took over several functions previously administered by the Department of the Interior. General subjects included: the internal organisation of the Department; details of organisations such as the International Refugee Organisation, United Nations Organisation and immigration bodies; the administration of the Children's Overseas Reception Board; whereabouts cases, general control of passports and grants of travel facilities to certain areas and miscellaneous subjects.
Series: A659
Quantity: 101.25 metres
Recorded by: 1939 Department of the Interior [I] (CA 27); 1939–45 Department of the Interior [II] (CA 31)
Department of Immigration, 'Report and proposals by Mr T H Garrett. Refugees from Europe – Selection of etc. (1939)' [136 pages, 1939]
This is an important policy file containing an interim report on 'White Alien Immigration into Australia from Europe, Establishment of Organisation at Australia House' of June 1939 by T.H. Garrett, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Interior. This outlines the categories of 'alien migration', and especially refugees, with the conditions for entry into Australia. All applications by 'white aliens' in Europe without guarantors in Australia had to be lodged at Australia House and were divided into refugees and non-refugees. Refugees were then divided into Jews (by religion), Roman Catholics and non-Jewish non Catholics. The file also includes brief notes of a tour of the continent by Garrett and the Chief Migration Officer, Major R H Wheeler, from July to August 1939. Following this trip, Garrett produced a final report on 'Alien Immigration and Organisation at Australia House', dated August 1939. This deals with the effectiveness of refugee organisations in Europe, the extent to which officers at Australia House should deal with selection, and the procedure for processing applications.
A659, 1947/1/2109
Department of the Interior, 'Refugees (Emergency Council) Organisation in NSW for their Absorption [Assimilation?]' [48 pages, 1938–39]
This contains press cuttings, an agenda for a public meeting on the setting up of the Refugee Emergency Council, New South Wales, under the League of Nations Union, the First Annual Report of the Emergency Fellowship Committee and related correspondence from Raymond Watt, National Secretary of the Australian League of Nations Union, an article on refugee welfare, reprinted from The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 1938, minutes of meetings of the Refugees Emergency Council of New South Wales and its sub-committees, a statement made in the House of Representatives by the Minister for the Interior on 1 December 1938 and a memorandum on 'Refugees – organisation in NSW for the purpose of dealing with non-Jewish, Non-Catholic refugees by T H Garrett, April 1939'.
A659, 1939/1/4451
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1929
Canberra
This series consists of the main correspondence file series of the Attorney-General's Department. The series commenced in 1929, replacing the existing systems and contains material top-numbered from those series, including papers back to 1901.
Series: A432
Quantity: 2329.2 metres
Recorded by: 1929–58: Attorney General's Department (CA 5)
Attorney General's Department, 'Convention concerning the Status of Refugees coming from Germany: Geneva 1938' [19 pages, 1938]
This includes a copy of the Convention concerning the Status of Refugees coming from Germany, dated February 1938, and a draft additional Protocol for advice as to whether the Commonwealth Government should accede to the Convention, together with internal accompanying correspondence. The view was that there was no reason for the Commonwealth to accede and that several Articles dealt with matters more appropriate for the States. No objection was made to the Draft Protocol.
A432, 1938/1184
Attorney General's Department, 'Position of Refugees in the Event of War' [4 pages, 1939]
This concerns representations to the Prime Minister from the Commonwealth Council of Refugee Migration Organisations on the position of refugees in the event of war. Under the law, they would be classed as 'enemy aliens' and as such, could be detained.
A432, 1939/825
Attorney General's Department, '"The Refugee" (Film): Protest by the German Consul' [7 pages, 1939]
Dr. Asmis, the German Consul-General, protested to the Prime Minister in February 1939, to the film 'The March of Time: The Refugee', on the basis that it was strongly anti-German and called for its withdrawal. The file contains a subsequent assessment of the film by H E Jones, Director, Investigation Branch, who concluded that, despite some objectionable features in the film, the government had no power to prohibit it. There was no legal power to prevent the pictorial pro-Nazi propaganda being shown in Australia at the time.
A432, 1939/145
CORRESPONDENCE FILES CLASS 3 (NON-BRITISH EUROPEAN MIGRANTS), 1939–50
Canberra
These files relate to restricted immigration to Australia. Files may contain reports, correspondence, articles, cables, news cuttings, passports, proposed amendments to the Immigration Act, departmental despatches, authorities for admission under exemption (form 32) and deportation orders (form 43B). Restricted immigration covers things such as admission of Asians, coloured persons, business visits, deserters, deportees and undesirables. Files from these series may be top-numbered into series A446, as well as into the subsequent series, A445 and A2998.
Series: A434
Quantity: 12.27 metres
Recorded by: 1939: Department of the Interior, Central Administration (CA 27); 1939–45: Department of the Interior, Central Office (CA 31)
Department of Immigration, 'Australian Refugee Immigration Committee. Policy file' [203 pages, 1938–48]
This contains letters to the League of Nations Union expressing concern over the situation of refugees in Europe in 1938. In co-operation with church leaders, a Committee, called the Victorian International Refugee Emergency Council, representative of various community groups working for both Jewish and non-Jewish refugees, was set up in Victoria in December 1938 to assist in selection, reception and assimilation. Similar moves occurred in other states. The file includes resolutions adopted by the Union urging the Australian government to facilitate the migration of as many refugees as could economically be absorbed, with the Commonwealth government bearing the cost, and to appoint an advisory committee. Correspondence between the Council and government officials involves its work of processing applications for non-Jewish, non-Catholic refugees and the use of Forms 40 and 47. Council pamphlets and the first annual report are also included. More than half of this file covers the post-1939 period.
A434, 1949/3/7286
Department of Immigration, 'AJWS. Australian Jewish Welfare Society Scheme for admission of 300 refugee children', Part 1. (Part II of this file is A434, 1950/3/14.) [301 pages, 1939–46]
Only a very small portion of this file covers the pre-World War II period. It deals with the provisions for the introduction of refugee children during and after the war under the auspices of the AJWS. A formal application for the admission of a limited number of Jewish refugee orphans was made in a letter to the Department of the Interior, dated February 1939, bringing many of the arguments for child migration and refugee migration together. Approval was given in March 1939 for a special children's quota of 250 per year, to be deducted from the Society's quota of 'transmitted cases'.
A434, 1949/3/3
Department of Immigration, File of Papers, 'Refugees from Austria – special committee proposed by USA Government. Evian Conference' [4 cm, 1938–48]
This is a very large and important file focussing on the international context of refugee immigration to Australia in 1938 and 1939 (with the exception of 5 pages relating to Austrians residing in Shanghai in 1948). It contains reports, statements and notes of meetings of the Inter-governmental Committee on Refugees. This Committee was set up at the Evian Conference in July 1938 to facilitate emigration of political refugees from Austria and Germany, a move initiated by the United States. The file includes a summary report by the Australian delegation of the third meeting of the Committee, together with a confidential memorandum by George Rublee, Director of the London Office of the Evian Committee, on his discussions with German authorities in January and February 1939, informing them of the resolutions adopted at Evian. Internal departmental correspondence and memoranda relate to financing the emigration, originally to be undertaken by private organisations but this was proving impossible by 1939 without government assistance. Other contents include correspondence and memoranda dating from April 1938 relating to the setting up of the Committee and the question of Australia's participation (not in chronological order), press and Hansard extracts, data on applications, cables, policy statements on Jewish immigration, information on the Evian Conference itself such as the speech by T W White, Minister of Trade and Customs and delegate for Australia, and responses to it, resolutions of the Conference and subsequent correspondence and circulars on the events of 1939 related to refugees and the work of the Committee.
A434, 1950/3/41837
Department of Immigration, File of Papers 'Convention Concerning Status of Refugees from Germany' [3 cm, 1934–45]
This contains League of Nations notes on assistance to refugees (September 1935) and an Inter-governmental Conference for the adoption of the Legal Status of Jewish and non-Jewish Refugees coming from Germany (March 1936), correspondence on Australia's possible participation, Provisional Arrangements and Final Act (July 1936 and February 1938), and copies of successive reports. A League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees coming from Germany, later extended to refugees coming from Austria, was subsequently appointed. Correspondence then relates to the adoption of a new standard form of Certificate of Identity for refugees from Germany and the preparations and explanatory notes for an international conference for the adoption of a convention in February 1938 on the legal status of these refugees (copy of the Convention is included in the file). Recognition of the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich by the United Kingdom, the problem of Austrian refugees, a League of Nations plan for the international assistance of refugees, and whether Australia should become a party to the Convention are issues raised in correspondence.
A434, 1950/3/41340
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1935–
Canberra
This was the main correspondence files series for the Department of Trade and Customs and covers a wide range of subjects. It includes records on the censorship of imported goods including printed matter and films.
Series: A425
Quantity: 2702.24 metres
Recorded by: 1935–56: Department of Trade and Customs (CA 10)
Department of Trade and Customs, 'Film Censorship. 'March of Time: the Refugee' and others. War horror films – China–Japanese War – comment' [97 pages, 1938–39]
This file focuses on the question of film censorship for political reasons. A number of films are discussed including 'The March of Time: The Refugee'. The protest by the German Consul-General as discussed in A432, 1939/145 above, is also included here, together with a justification for the film's screening by the Chief Censor.
A425, 1939/1513
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'H' INFIX, 1926–50
Perth
This series contains general records of functions in connection with migration, covering reports by the Boarding Branch, Customs Department, in respect of all vessels, showing persons coming under notice through the provisions of the Immigration Act; details of the activities of the Social Welfare Branch; applications for naturalisation; applications for Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test; applications for admission to Australia as a migrant; nominal rolls of migrants supplied by overseas posts on the departure of vessels; reports on unsuitable migrants and action taken in respect of deportees; general correspondence; reports on immigration centres, Northam and Cunderdin; and applications for permanent residence by persons who have entered the country illegally. From May 1926 to May 1946 all immigration work was carried out by the Customs Department and records were maintained by them. With the establishment of the Immigration Department in Perth in May 1946, all files were transferred from Customs to Immigration. Files prior to 1926 are believed to have been destroyed.
Series: PP6/1
Quantity: 20.16 metres
Recorded by: 1926–45: Collector of Customs, WA, (from 1985) Australian Customs Service, WA (CA 808); 1945–50: Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch (CA 962)
Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch, 'Alien Immigration – Refugees etc.' [15 pages, 1939]
This contains a memorandum from the Department of the Interior to the Collector of Customs, Fremantle, in September 1939 with a copy of statements setting out the policy regarding alien immigration into Australia in relation to refugees.
PP6/1, 1939/H/952
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1930–39
Melbourne
This was the main correspondence series for Army Headquarters and includes correspondence relating to matters within the jurisdiction of the Military Board of Administration. It covers areas such as administration, organisation, staffing, training, ordnance, stores and transport.
Series: B1535
Quantity: 30.20 metres
Recorded by: 1930–39: Army Headquarters, Department of Defence (CA 2671)
Department of the Interior, 'Refugees Holding Landing Permits for Entry into Australia' [20 pages, 1939]
This contains a statement of September 1939, setting forth the government's policy with regard to alien immigration into Australia, particularly regarding refugees, in view of the international situation. The file also contains recommendations from the High Commissioner in London in regard to the admission of refugees who already held landing permits issued prior to the outbreak of war, and refugees in neutral countries.
B1535, 779/1/172
Department of the Interior, 'Position in Australia of Refugees' [21 pages, 1939]
This contains a letter to the Department of the Interior from the Continental Catholic Migrants Welfare Committee (CCMWC) in July 1939, requesting assurances that genuine refugees would not be interned or have their funds confiscated in the event of war. The reply indicated that no such assurances could be given. A further letter to the Minister of Defence of August 1939 on behalf of the Commonwealth Council of Refugee Migration Organisations urged that such refugees not be treated as alien enemies and suggested how they might be treated by the authorities in wartime and how they might serve the country. The greatest fear on the part of the refugees was that they might be interned with pro-Nazi Germans. The reply reiterated that no undertaking could be given that any alien or class of 'aliens' would not be interned, set out the general policy regarding refugees from Germany, and how the CCMWC should act to best safeguard the interests of the refugees.
B1535, 867/2/38
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 1939–42
Melbourne
These files relate to the wartime administration of the military forces of Australia.
Series: MP508/1
Quantity: 144 metres
Recorded by: 1939: Army Headquarters, Department of Defence (CA 2671)
Department of Defence, 'German Jewish Refugees Enlistment in Armed Forces' [25 pages, 1938–40]
This contains a letter in September 1938, from W Cahn, an ex-officer of the German Army in World War I, now a German refugee and Secretary of the Victorian Migrants Consultative Committee, offering his services to the Commonwealth Government, particularly regarding the enlistment of 'aliens'. Other correspondence is included relating to the desire of Jewish migrants to enlist in the Australian Armed Forces. The government did not see this as desirable.
MP508/1, 115/702/20
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH YEAR PREFIX, 1916–27, AND 'C' PREFIX, 1927–53
Canberra
This series consists of bundles of general correspondence, reports, copies of forms, dossiers, history sheets etc. all of which reflect the activities of the former Commonwealth Investigation Service in respect of inquiries into applications for naturalisation, the admission into Australia of friends and relatives, visitors, substitutes for businessmen (Chinese), claims relating to National Security (War Damage and Property) Regulations. In most cases these investigations conform with the terms of the Nationality Act 1920–36. The series contains policy and precedent, as well as main case files, the majority of which were retained by the agency for future reference.
Series: A367
Quantity: 64.08 metres
Recorded by: 1916–19: Special Intelligence Bureau, (Central Office) Melbourne (CA 746); 1919–46: Investigation Branch, Central Office, Melbourne and Canberra (CA 747)
Attorney General's Department, File of Papers, 'Alien Migration, Jews from Central Europe. Central European Migrants (Stateless German Refugee Jews)' [108 pages, 1933–45]
This contains a letter to Major H E Jones in 1933 on the immigration of Jews from Roland Browne, Investigation Branch, Department of the Interior, and a reply, notes on Jewish Immigration from Central Europe, press cuttings from The Truth, Brisbane, 1938, a statement by H E Jones on Alien Migration, examples of Grants of Permit, and correspondence on the migration of Jewish refugees and their distribution in Australia. Following allegations from the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Sydney, that an agreement existed between the 'Jewish Association' and the Traders' Association, Perth, for preferential employment of Jews, the Commonwealth Investigation Branch carried out an investigation. (See A461, Z349/3/5 described earlier in this chapter.) Another investigation was carried out into the economic effect of the settlement of 'white aliens', and particularly Jews in the manufacturing and retail sections of the clothing trade and other secondary industries, and the activities of Italians in Melbourne. (see A433, 1939/2/909, described in Chapter 11). Correspondence is included on the settlement of Jews in Australia and an alleged Anti-Refugee Association in Melbourne. The rest of the file contains information related to the war period and a copy of The Australian Jewish Review of September 1945.
A367, C30751
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1948–89
Canberra
This series comprises the main correspondence file series of the Departments of External Affairs [II] from 1948–70, Foreign Affairs from 1970 to 1987, and Foreign Affairs and Trade from mid-1987 to the end of 1989.
Series: A1838
Quantity: 3080.96 metres
Recorded by: 1948–70: Department of External Affairs, Central Office (CA 18)
Department of External Affairs, 'Migration Australia. Settlement of European Jews in Australia' [59 pages, 1938–50]
This file relates to proposals from Jewish organisations for the Jewish settlement in Australia, firstly of small groups on the land in Southern Australia, and secondly of larger groups in the Kimberleys in Western Australia. Correspondence on the second of these proposals makes up the bulk of the material from the pre World War II period. It includes letters from the 'Freeland' League for Jewish Territorial Colonisation of Western Australia, especially from Dr J Steinberg, a cable from G Miles, MLC, parliamentary extracts on Jewish Migration, and views of the Western Australian government and others on the subject.
A1838, 1531/71/3
DEFENCE ARMY SERIES (401), 1914–17
Melbourne
Series: MP729/6
Quantity: 26.28 metres
Recorded by: 1937–39: Department of Defence (CA 19); 1939–45: Department of the Army (CA 36)
Department of Defence, 'Alien Immigration, Refugees, etc.' [2 pages, 1939]
This contains a copy of a statement dated September 1939, setting out the policy of the government with regard to alien immigration into Australia, especially in regard to refugees.
MP729/6, 65/401/12
Department of Defence, 'Landing in Australia of German Jewish Refugees' [6 pages, 1939]
This contains a cablegram from the Secretary to the Government of India, Home Department, Simla, to the Prime Minister's Department, 28 September 1939, proposing that 57 German Jewish refugees, all with visas for Australia granted before the war, be allowed to proceed from Bombay to Australia. Subsequent exchanges are included.
MP729/6, 65/401/21

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