From across the sea - the museum's migration program explores our cultural heritage.

The arrival of waves of more than ten million migrants by boat and plane is one of the major themes in Australia’s history, and a foundation narrative of modern Australia, infusing our country with more than 200 different cultural and linguistic traditions. Was your family among them? 

Nearly half of all Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. Migrants have contributed enormously to the making of modern Australia - we believe museums sharing their stories can increase our understanding of the unique challenges many migrants face.

Image: Group of migrants on the deck of MV Castel Verde, Italy, 1950–1957. ANMM Collection Gift from Barbara Alysen. Reproduced courtesy International Organisation for Migration. ANMM Collection ANMS02014[024]

Explore their stories:

Learn more about our migration activities

Past exhibitions and events (.pdf 181kb)

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Migration Achievements Report (.pdf 3MB)

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Migration Blogs

Discover our shared histories through these compelling migration stories.

Workers place concrete reinforcement steel in the Tooma–Tumut Tunnel, part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, 1960. Photographer Don Edwards. ANMM Collection Gift from Barbara Alysen ANMS0215[016]

Snowy stories

17 Oct 2019

Seventy years ago today, the first blast was fired in the town of Adaminaby in southern New South Wales, officially marking the start of construction on Australia’s largest engineering project – the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.

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José Coelho is farewelled by his teaching colleagues in Ponta do Sol, Madeira, prior to his departure for Australia, 1956.

Love and sacrifice: From Madeira Island to the Snowy Mountains

28 Sep 2019

Seventy years ago this October, work began on Australia’s largest engineering project – the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Curator Kim Tao shares the story of Portuguese newlyweds José and Maria Coelho, who swapped sunny Madeira Island for the isolation of the Snowy Mountains.

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Goy Galdeano (centre, in white striped top) with the first group of female Spanish assisted migrants to Australia, 1960 [reproduced courtesy Melissa Zabalegui]

Mutiny on the Montserrat: The 60th anniversary of Operation Eucalyptus

02 Sep 2019

An archive of newspaper clippings in the museum’s collection documents a dramatic episode in assisted migration from Spain and Greece to Australia 60 years ago, writes curator Kim Tao. The nightmare 54-day voyage of the Montserrat was marred by engine trouble, fighting between passengers and crew, and even allegations of a mutiny by passengers in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

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Watercolour of Port Adelaide, South Australia, by Samuel Thomas Gill, 1840s. Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia

A worker in tulle: The English lacemakers of Calais

27 Aug 2019

The 1848 Revolution in France led to the exodus of a unique group of refugee artisans now known as the lacemakers of Calais. Curator Kim Tao profiles the story of Edward Lander, chairman of a committee representing nearly 650 English laceworkers and their families, who sought a fresh start in the Australian colonies.

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Annarosa Coluccio (third from left) with her parents (left) and mother-in-law (fourth from left) at her proxy marriage in Roccella Jonica, Calabria, Italy, 1956. Reproduced courtesy Isabella Coluccio

Until we meet again: An Italian proxy bride's story

22 Aug 2019

Annarosa Coluccio (née Bova) was one of 12,000 young Italian women who arrived in Australia as proxy brides between 1945 and 1976. Confronted by vast cultural and linguistic barriers, she eventually settled in with the love of her husband and the friendship of their new Australian neighbours.

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Johanna Goggins is one of the Irish famine orphans who is inscribed on the Welcome Wall.  Image: Kim Tao/ANMM.

Remembering the Irish famine orphans

17 Mar 2019

Today some 80 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry, including an estimated seven million Australians. For St Patrick’s Day, we take a look at the story of the destitute Irish orphans who arrived in Australia 170 years ago at the height of the Great Famine.

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Threads of migration roof projection in 2019. Image: ANMM.

Threads of migration

26 Jan 2019

Textiles are an evocative symbol of migration, memory and cultural identity. Our new roof projection, Threads of migration, illuminates the museum’s rooftop with a rich patchwork of immigrant stories.

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