Since 1945, more than seven million people have migrated to Australia making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Adding those who arrived between 1788, when the first Europeans settled in Australia, and 1945 brings the total to over ten million.
Today around 27% of Australians were born overseas with this figure rising to 40% plus in Sydney and, indeed, Melbourne. Add to this the number born to first generation immigrants and you begin to appreciate the impact of migration on Australia. In terms of world cities, only Toronto in Canada has a higher percentage of inhabitants born overseas – the vast majority of whom originate from the United States only a few kilometres distant.
The Welcome Wall is an initiative of the Australian National Maritime Museum to capture the names of some of these migrants and the stories behind their coming to Australia. Unlike other walls around the world, built to separate and divide, this wall stands as a symbol of Australia’s great diversity and unity.
Anyone born overseas who has permanently migrated to Australia can, for a fee of A$150 (A$140 for each additional family member), have their name inscribed on the bronze plaques that make up the wall. In addition to having their name inscribed on the wall, the details of each person’s arrival and up to 150 words about them can be recorded on a database which can be accessed in the adjacent Australian National Maritime Museum or online at http://welcomewall.anmm.gov.au/Pivot.
To date (new names are added on a regular basis) there are around 27,000 names inscribed on the wall, representing over 200 countries of origin. The names range from those of convicts who involuntarily arrived on the First Fleet in 1788 to those of current political refugees and economic migrants.
The pictures above are extracts from database referred to above – one related to Joseph Tuso, a convict who arrived on the First Fleet in 1788 and one related to Doan Tran, who with his wife and 2 week old daughter, fled Vietnam in October 1977 to escape the communist regime. The Tran family were but three of the thousands of ‘boat people’ who made the perilous sea journey from Vietnam to a new life in Australia at that time. Many more than those who arrived started their voyages but were lost at sea. The Vietnamese more generally were the first large group of Asian immigrants to settle in Australia after the end of the White Australia policy in 1973.
Notwithstanding the growth in Asian migrants to Australia since 1973 the majority of current overseas born Australians originally came from the United Kingdom, as has been the case since 1788.
For those interested, I have included a brief history of migration to Australia in my review on the Migration Museum in Adelaide, South Australia – 27% of Australians Born Overseas.
Hours after visiting the Welcome Wall I, coincidentally, went to the beautiful Strand Theatre to see the musical Gregory’s Girl. Gregory’s Girl tells the story of a famous Australian folk group, Judith Durham and the Seekers, I suspect well known to my British reader of a certain vintage. Bruce Woodley, one of the Seekers penned what for me is one of the groups best later songs – ‘I am Australian’. Listening to it, having just visited the Welcome Wall, certainly made me think of what it meant for me, one of the seven million referred to earlier, to be an Australian and how indeed ‘We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come.’
I came from the dreamtime
From the dusty red-soil plains
I am the ancient heart
The keeper of the flames
I stood upon the rocky shore
I watched the tall ships come
For forty thousand years I’ve been, the first Australian
I came upon the prison ships
Bound down by iron chains
I cured the land
Endured the lash
And waited for the rains
I’m a settler
I’m a farmer’s wife
On a dry and barren run
A convict and a free man
I became Australian
I’m a daughter of a digger
Who sought the mother lode
The girl became a women
On the long and dusty road
I’m a child of the depression
I saw the good time come
I’m a bushy, I’m a battler
I am Australian
We are one
But we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We’ll share a dream
And sing with one voice
I am, you are we are Australian
I’m a teller of stories
I’m a singer of songs
I am Albert Namatjira
And I paint the ghostly gums
I’m Clancy on his horse
I’m Ned Kelly on the run
I’m the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian
I’m the hot wind from the desert
I’m the black soil of the plain
I’m the mountains and the valleys
I’m the drowned and flooding rains
I am the rock
I am the sky
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian
The Welcome Wall is located at the rear of the Australian National Maritime Museum, and can be accessed 24/7 free of charge.
This is my last SYDNEY – CITY – DARLING HARBOUR review.
For other Sydney reviews click HERE.