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Australian government

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In the late 1930s, Australia was experiencing a serious shortage of agricultural labour and metal industry workers and it was already being foreseen that Great Britain would no longer be able to supply the growing need. The Australian government decided to admit migrants from other European countries, including the Netherlands. An agreement between the Australian government and the Dutch Emigration Foundation was reached in June 1939. Landing fees were reduced and counselling and after-care provided. Before immigration could get under way, however, the Second World War broke out.

After the war, labour shortages remained a problem in Australia and institutions were quickly established to channel immigration. In addition to a separate ministry for immigration, an Immigration Advisory Council was created in 1947 to advise the government on immigration issues. The Immigration Planning Council was set up and mandated to determine the number of immigrants to be admitted each year. The two councils operated independently until they merged into the Australia Population and Immigration Council in 1974.

On 31 December 1946, the Australian government and the Dutch Emigration Foundation revived the 1939 agreement with the difference that skilled and unskilled workers in fields other than agriculture were now permitted to emigrate to Australia under favourable conditions. These were further improved by the Netherlands Australia Migration Agreement of 1951 which gave certain groups of migrants the right to migrate, with support from both countries’ authorities. Some restrictions did of course apply, such as age limits and family size.

Dutch institutions selected emigrants and took care of their transport costs while the Australian government assumed responsibility for reception, accommodation and after-care. As a result of the new agreement and the improved conditions, a record number of 16,000 Dutch emigrants left for Australia in 1952.

Part of the immigrants’ reception was arranged by the Good Neighbour Councils, independent committees funded by the Australian government which were set up in 1950. Working with the government, the councils helped to promoted integration. Volunteers visited new immigrants and offered them assistance in finding jobs and accommodation.

The Australian authorities also actively promoted immigration. To give potential immigrants a positive image of their new country and avoid negative reports about emigration, Dutch journalists were invited to the country to see for themselves how their compatriots were doing. When in the late 1950s immigration was on the decline, a special young people’s programme was started. Young Dutch men and women went to Australia for a year to learn about it by living and working there. Such programmes continued until the late 1960s and tried to generate enthusiasm so that more Dutch people would choose to emigrate.

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