Immigration Museum


Immigration Museum

The Immigration Museum explores the stories of people who have migrated to Victoria. Located in Old Customs House, the museum re-creates real-life experiences with a rich mix of film, personal and community voices, memories and memorabilia.

50 years of dollars and cents

by Nick Crotty
Publish date
12 February 2016
Comments (1)
In come the dollars, in come the cents;
To replace the pounds and the shillings and the pence.
Be prepared folks when the coins begin to mix;
On the 14th of February 1966.

For some people Valentine's Day fifty years ago might have been quite special, but for all Australians it changed almost every aspect of our lives.


Decimalisation of the currency had been debated since Federation but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that actual preparations began. At first, our new currency was going to be called the Royal, a term favoured by monarchist Prime Minister Robert Menzies. Other suggestions included the Digger, the Oz, the Emu, and the Koala. But these were not popular and we finally settled on the Dollar.

coins in a card from The Royal Australian Mint Uncirculated Coin Set, 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Image: Naomi Andrzejeski
Source: Museum Victoria

As the rather catchy jingle above says, the currency officially changed on Monday 14th of February 1966. The actual day was called “C-Day” or “Changeover Day” although the transition from pounds, shillings and pence to dollar and cents took almost two years. While Dollar Bill emphasised the simplicity of the new currency there were issues with converting one to the other. Many people required conversion tables.

10 dollars = five pounds
5 dollars = two pounds and 10 shillings
2 dollars = 1 pound
1 dollar = 10 shillings (or half a pound)
10 cents = I shilling
2 cents = 2 pennies
1 cent = 1.2 pence (although initially many shop keepers traded 1 cent for 1 penny)

Card with red writing Decimal Conversion Tables, circa 1970. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Source: Hugh Lennon

glass Tumbler - Decimal Currency Conversion, circa 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Source: Museum Victoria

It was estimated that 1,700,000,000 pre-decimal coins needed replacing. More than one billion new coins were minted and 150 million banknotes were printed. The actual delivery of the new currency was called “Operation Fastbuck” and started in November 1965. Security was strict, especially as much of the new currency was coming by ship from the London Mint. From the Melbourne docks it travelled in armoured vans to the Reserve Bank warehouse. Then, to get it to the 3000 banks across Australia, a convoy of heavily-guarded semi-trailers carried crates of coins and banknotes. In all 70 drivers were involved, and each was given their own “Fastbuck Wallet” containing a set of the new coins. Amazingly, there were no known thefts.

wooden box Coin Crate - 1 Cent, Australia, 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

The coins were designed by Stuart Devlin, a gold and silversmith born in Geelong. We still use Devlin’s designs today, although the one and two dollar coins were added in 1984 and 1988 respectively and the one and two cents were removed in 1992. The original circular 50 cent coin was changed to a dodecagonal coin in 1969; people were confusing it with the 20 cent coin, and its 80% silver content soon made its metal more valuable than its face value. Later, the paper banknotes were replaced by modern polymer notes.

coin Proof Coin - 50 Cents, Australia, 1966. View on Museum Victoria Collections.
Image:  Naomi Andrzejeski
Source: Museum Victoria

Responsible Gambling Awareness Week

by Eleni
Publish date
2 November 2015
Comments (3)

In a celebration at the start of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, the Immigration Museum played host to HealthWest Partnership. Leaders from peak ethnic agencies and bi-lingual workers to raise awareness of the growing impact gambling plays amongst the elderly in their communities.

Spearheaded by HealthWest Partnership and funded by Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.This is one of a number of projects that have been developed across Victoria to address and reduce harm from gambling.

Frank Di Blasi, OAM, JP and local community advocate, who has previously worked with CO.AS.IT. and the Italian community for over forty years, spoke of his sadness at witnessing the denial, shame and guilt experienced by members of his community after losing large amounts of money:

“At the end of a four-hour gambling outing, I could see the unhappiness, anger and misery on their faces at the realisation they have put more money into the machines than they had originally planned. I can sense their reluctance in not wanting to admit to themselves and others that they have lost a large amount of their fortnightly pension money in just a couple of hours”.

Culminating eight months of hard work, a celebratory event was held at the Immigration Museum on Monday 12th October. This event sought to highlight traditional community forms of games, dance, music and alternative activities that don’t involve groups recreating at gambling venues.

Men playing traditional game Traditional community games
Source: Photo credits: Frank Di Blasi

The event was opened by Immigration Museum Manager Padmini Sebastian, HealthWest EO Gail O’Donnell and Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria Aged Care Policy Officer, Mathias Stevenson. The museum welcomed members of Macedonian Community Welfare, CO.AS.IT (Italians and Australians of Italian Descent), Australian Greek Welfare Society, Arabic Welfare Incorporated, Migrant Resource Centre Northwest Region (Turkish), Maltese Council of Victoria and Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria.

People in Audience Communities
Source: Photo credits: Frank Di Blasi

The event was a chance to raise awareness of the harm gambling can cause to an individual, to families and to whole communities. This was demonstrated via the powerful Three Sides of the Coin performance by Catherine Simmonds that challenged and stimulated conversation around issues of gambling in Victoria and encouraged members of the audience to share their experiences. In addition to traditional dancers from the Greek Community, three piece band from the Italian community, guests were encouraged to participate in a series of games including outdoor Bocce (Italian), Dama and Quoits (Macedonian) and Tawlah and Gala (Arabic).

Traditional dancers Traditional dancers
Source: Photo credits: Frank Di Blasi

This event was a valuable celebration to hold at the Immigration Museum, in addition to celebrating a range of traditional games and music, it was the chance to raise awareness of a serious health issue for older ethnic communities. The Immigration Museum is a valuable gallery space for communities to come and explore as an alternative to gambling trips. We invite all members of these groups to continue coming back to the museum and to use the space as their own and thank HealthWest and the bi-lingual workers for their ongoing efforts to address this issue.

Responsible Gambling Awareness Week Responsible Gambling Awareness Week
Source: Photo credits: Frank Di Blasi

Goodbye Wish!

by Zoe
Publish date
23 October 2015
Comments (1)

This September, the Immigration Museum bade goodbye to our Wish Tree. Originally developed for the 2013 July school holidays, this interactive installation was so popular with visitors (and staff!) that it stayed in place for more than two years past its intended end date!

The Wish Tree in 2013 The Wish Tree in 2013, already covered in wishes.
Source: Museum Victoria

Based on a tradition from the Japanese Tanabata festival, the activity invited visitors to anonymously write a wish and hang it from a “tree” structure. Over the past two years, an estimated 20-25,000 wishes accumulated, requiring frequent pruning.

As temporary caretaker of the Wish Tree, I loved visiting the second floor foyer and peeking at new wishes. One rainy afternoon, I surveyed 1200 wishes in an effort to find out what our visitors wished for the most. Common themes included world peace; health for loved ones; concern for the current refugee situation, and romance (with an alarming number of wishes related to pop band One Direction!) Wishes were funny, sad, personal and mysterious – sometimes all at the same time.

A wish reads “I wish I have ice cream ereyday” A wish reads “I wish I have icecream ereyDay (sic)".
Source: Catherine Devery

Further examples included (preserving the original spelling):

  • I wish for a alive unicorn
  • I wish my friends don’t bully me
  • Love and respect for new immigrants in Oz
  • I wish to end my heroin addiction
  • I wish mum would relax
  • I wish that my country (Sudan) becomes peaceful soon
  • I wish I wasn’t at the imagration museam (!)
  • I wish I was old enough to marry Spiderman

A wish reads “I wish to make my first friend. I’m 32. I’ve had a long life so far.” A wish reads “I wish to make my first friend. I’m 32. I’ve had a long life so far.”
Source: Catherine Devery

Today, the Wish Tree structure invites a different form of self-expression. It’s been transformed into a self-portrait studio, and visitors are already contributing fantastic, fascinating and diverse self-portraits.

Thank you to all of the visitors who helped make the Wish Tree so special. Did your wish come true?

Talking Difference at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

by Sam Boivin
Publish date
16 September 2015
Comments (0)

Friday 28 August - Monday 23 November 2015

Back in August 2014, I gave a presentation on Talking Difference at a forum called Just Encounters: Bringing Together Education, Arts and Research. This forum was presented by the Minutes of Evidence (MoE) project.

Also at the forum, and hearing me talk, were staff members from the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, who were planning an upcoming exhibition, Oil Paint and Ochre: The incredible story of William Barak and the de Purys, which explores the complexity of first-generation negotiation between Aboriginal and European people in Australia.

As part of the exhibition's complementary public programming, researchers were looking for an engaging and interactive way to bring the story right into the present – to show and remind visitors that the exchange and negotiation across cultures is ongoing in Australia, and to allow any issues or thoughts raised by the exhibition to be voiced and explored. They remembered my presentation at the Just Encounters forum and contacted me about a possible residency for the Talking Difference Portable Studio, for the duration of the exhibition.

The Talking Difference Portable Studio The Talking Difference Portable Studio at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

On Friday 28 August I travelled east to the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum and set up the studio. A workshop was then held with fifteen local year 8 students. Many of the themes Talking Difference addresses were discussed, including personal identity, judging people based on outward appearances, and why making jokes about another person’s race or skin colour is not okay. The students demonstrated a good grasp of the workshop ideas and a lot of empathy. At the end of the workshop, students came up with some questions that were then recorded in the Talking Difference Portable Studio for members of the public to respond to:

  • How do you identify yourself?
  • Have you ever felt like you had to change part of your identity? Why?
  • How do you feel if someone tells you that they are a different religion to you? Why?
  • Have you ever been ashamed of your culture or race? What happened? How did it make you feel?
  • Have you ever stereotyped someone? How do you think it made them feel?
  • Have you ever been teased because of who you are? How did it make you feel?
  • Is it okay to tell a joke about someone’s race or skin colour? Who gets to decide if the joke is funny?

Talking Difference Talking Difference as viewed from the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum exhibition galleries.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

The Oil Paint and Ochre exhibition presents objects and stories from the de Pury family collection, including diaries, letters and artefacts. I was lucky enough to be given a walk-through preview of the exhibition, and found the stories and content quite moving, especially in the use of intimate snippets of the forty year exchange between two cultures. The exhibition represents a great opportunity for Talking Difference to reach a historically rich part of Victoria and to add to its growing collection of community responses to questions about identity, belonging, racism, and the other themes that Talking Difference seeks to address.

Oil Paint and Ochre: The incredible story of William Barak and the de Purys, is running from Saturday 29 August - Sunday 22 November, 2015 at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum: 33 Castella St, Lilydale VIC 3140. The Talking Difference Portable Studio will be in residence for the duration of the exhibition.

The Honourable Joan Kirner

Dr Greene is the CEO of Museum Victoria.

Museum Victoria mourns Joan Kirner, the former Premier of Victoria, who served as a member of the museum's governing body from 2003 to 2012.

Joan Kirner speaking at the Joan Kirner speaking at the celebration of the 21st birthday of Scienceworks.
Source: Museum Victoria

Joan's first involvement with the museum occurred during her time as Premier of Victoria when she opened Scienceworks, an investment in the scientific life of the State that proved very forward-thinking.

Joan was an enthusiastic supporter of Museum Victoria. Just last week she was talking about ways in which she might help with one of the museum's current projects that is providing visibility to the role of women on farms in Australia. Her enthusiasm for efforts to recognise and encourage women in all aspects of public and personal life extended to many other aspects of social justice, including the rights of Aboriginal Australians. She was a member of the museum's Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee, and the development of the First Peoples exhibition in Bunjilaka was dear to her heart.

Joan's passions extended to wildlife, and particularly birds. She and Ron, her husband, went on camping trips that would bring them to places rich in birdlife until ill-health curtailed that activity. She was a great advocate for opportunities for the museum to display its rich collections of natural science specimens, culminating in the opening of the award-winning Wild: Amazing animals in a changing world at Melbourne Museum. As someone who placed the education of young people high on any agenda, the museum's ability to reach and inspire hundreds of thousands of children was a source of considerable pleasure. Joan was also on the Immigration Museum Advisory Committee and was a strong advocate for youth engagement which resulted in the Talking Difference project.

I enjoyed working with Joan Kirner enormously during her nine years (the maximum term) as a Board member. Her enthusiasm was matched by her keen intellect: she was a constant source of wisdom. When she stepped down from the Board, Joan was appointed an Honorary Life Fellow of Museum Victoria and she continued to take a close interest in its progress. Her insights into the politics and personalities of Victoria were always valuable and frequently amusing. She was held in high regard by everyone associated with Museum Victoria and we will miss her greatly.

Multilingual Museum Tour launch

by Jen Brook
Publish date
26 March 2015
Comments (0)

Jen manages Humanities programs at Museum Victoria.

To celebrate Cultural Diversity Week, last Friday we proudly launched the Immigration Museum’s Multilingual Museum Tour. This free downloadable app, made in partnership with SBS, is your personal tour of the museum in six languages: Arabic, French, Italian, Japanese and Mandarin and English. The tour features detailed text, audio commentary and stunning historical imagery that reveal the stories of the people, businesses and architecture that have transformed Melbourne and Victoria.

Four people at tour app launch Immigration Museum Manager Padmini Sebastian and MV CEO Dr J Patrick Greene (far right) with launch guests Mr Peter Khalil and Hon Robin Scott MP.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The tour was launched by Hon Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, who addressed a crowd of special guests including representatives from the Victorian Multicultural Commission, City of Melbourne, Melbourne Visitors Centre, the Yulgilbar Foundation, Multicultural Arts Victoria and AMES. We also had had the Consulate Generals of Spain, Italy, and France and our project partners SBS. The Minister spoke of the importance in recognising Melbourne as a successful, contemporary multilingual society and the significance of the Immigration Museum as a place to celebrate Victoria’s multiculturalism. Cultural Diversity Week is one of Victoria’s largest multicultural celebrations and, like the Immigration Museum, provides an opportunity for all Victorians to come together to share their culture, faith and language.

Guests at the launch of the tour app Guests at the Immigration Museum to launch the Multilingual Museum Tour.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The museum is proud and delighted to have partnered with SBS for this project, an organisation at the forefront of celebrating multicultural Australia, providing high quality, independent, culturally-relevant media to all Australians regardless of geography, age, cultural background or language skills. SBS’s talented radio presenters are the voices behind the Arabic, Italian, Japanese, French and Mandarin guides. The English guide is presented by Immigration Museum Manager Padmini Sebastian.

Six presenters of the app Presenters of the Multilingual Museum Tour app:
MANDARIN: Liu Jiang, SBS Radio
ARABIC: Iman Riman, SBS Radio
ITALIAN: Carlo Oreglia, SBS Radio
FRENCH: Christophe Mallet, SBS Radio
ENGLISH: Padmini Sebastian, Manager Immigration Museum
JAPANESE Miyuki Watanabe SBS Radio
Source: Museum Victoria / SBS

The Immigration Museum’s Multilingual Museum Tour builds on the technology initiatives and programs that Museum Victoria has been developing in recent years which assist in increasing audience access to our museums and collections. These include Melbourne’s Golden Mile, Spotswood Industrial Heritage and Carlton Gardens walking tour apps, as well as the Field Guide to Victorian Fauna app, which has been downloaded over 100,000 times,

Guests at the Multilingual Museum Tour launch. Guests at the Multilingual Museum Tour launch.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

You can download the app free to your own Apple and Android device before your visit, or ask to borrow one of our devices from the Immigration Museum ticketing desk.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.