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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Let me shake your hand and welcome you to your new home

The Minister for Immigration Mr Arthur Calwell welcomes a happy family of new post-war immigrants to Australia, c.1947.

The above unidentified photograph was published in this article in The Melbourne Age in 2007, which marked sixty years since the wave of post-war refugees arrived in Australia.

My husband's grandmother Grace Eleanor Calwell was a first cousin to ArthurAugustus Calwell, who was a dominant figure in Australian politics from 1940 until 1967. Mr Calwell was the Minister for Immigration under the post-war Labor Government and later as leader of the party he narrowly lost a Federal election in 1961. I've written a little about Arthur here in  previous posts, for example here and here

Arthur Calwell must have shaken the hands of a very large number of new European migrants who had come to Australia after being displaced from their home countries following World War 2, and he subsequently became a personal  friend to many of these new Australian families.

In 2012 Arthur's daughter Mary Elizabeth Calwell published a book about her father's life and work, and at the book launch Arthur was acknowledged as the father of multiculturalism in Australia.   For a report of the speech given at the launch by the then Minister for Immigration Mr Chris Bowen giving credit to Arthur for his considerable achievements in the field of immigration and dispelling a few commonly held misconceptions about him, click here

I don't mean to get political here, but in my humble opinion, the current Australian government's policy on refugees is very, very wrong, and the Labor Party's approach to the subject is no better. I believe we should welcome all people who come here. We should be shaking their hands and offering them a new chance at life, rather than turning back the boats on which they have attempted very hazardous voyages, refusing to allow them to land on our shores and condemning them either to indefinite incarceration in camps in other less fortunate countries or to a return to the hostile places from which they have desperately tried to escape. 

I simply offer this letter on the subject from Julian Burnside, AO, QC, a notable Australian whom I very much admire for his courage to speak out. He is a barrister, human rights and refugee advocate.

Letter published on Facebook by Adam Bandt, Australian Greens, with permission of Julian Burnside 

The inimitable British folk singer Roy Bailey has a song in his latest album, entitled 'Welcome'. Here are some of the opening lines:
'Welcome, come into my land. It's your land too now, I want to shake your hand. I want to know your story, the journey you've been on ..."
No video clip to be found, but you can hear Roy sing it on Spotify. I say 'welcome'!

For more hand shaking or any other matters that this week's photo may have prompted fellow Sepians to blog about, please go to Sepia Saturday # 235


  1. The immigration problem is a tough one. After many years of welcoming people suffering human rights or hunger issues in their native countries, there comes a point where those already citizens of the welcoming country are beginning to be displaced - from homes, from jobs, from safety - because of the influx of immigrants. How, then, does a country offer succor to the incoming without hurting its own people? Yet, how do they turn those suffering people away? It's a tricky business with grave consequences all round and some countries are just beginning to realize they must be willing to put a firm foot down in order to save their own citizens and thereby, perhaps, even their country. It's truly a sad situation on all fronts.

    1. Well everyone is entitled to their opinions of course, but I don't think there is any issue of Australians being harmed or suffering in this situation. Here is a news item from today which shows that the global media are not at all impressed with what our government is attempting to do:

  2. The lady in the photo reminded me of my mother in law, who with her husband and son migrated to Australia from Europe. Their names are on a plaque at the Bonegilla Migrant Camp in Northern Victoria.

  3. That’s a charming picture that matches the prompt well. Calwell seems to have been a very open-minded and forward thinking man.

  4. Father of Multiculturalism -- now that's something to be remembered for.

  5. That is a warm welcoming picture, but I agree with La Nightingail about the current situation.

  6. That is a relaxed and happy photograph you have chosen to use to initiate the immigration discussion. In tune with this weeks theme I'm sitting on the fence with this one.

  7. I'm so embarrassed by what's going on in my country, the US, with immigrants. It's ugly and hateful. It's become too much of "I've got mine and I don't care if you get any." I could easily, like you, get very political about this. I'm fed up with the stupidity and hatred that passes for public discourse about almost all subjects. Logic and even simple common sense no longer get a place at the table.