Twenty years ago today, the first 3,000 names were officially unveiled on the museum’s Welcome Wall by then Governor-General Sir William Deane. Speaking at the launch on 24 January 1999, the Governor-General said, ‘Our nation is the sum of us all, all those who came here, all those who were born here, all those who are or have been Australian. And that is the great lesson of this Welcome Wall ... our diversity has led to our unity’. It is a message that remains as powerful and relevant as ever.
Today the Welcome Wall features nearly 30,000 names representing more than 100 countries. It is Australia’s only national memorial to one of history’s great migrations, in which more than 10 million people have crossed the seas to settle in Australia. Today around half of our population was either born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas.