Few and far away

Rupert ‘Monty’ Montague and Stephanie Burchett
Rupert ‘Monty’ Montague migrated to England from Jamaica in 1943. In 1964 he married Stephanie Burchett (later Alexander), an Australian who was temporarily living in London. Monty then embarked on a ‘second migration’ to Australia where he and Stephanie opened the first West Indian restaurant in Melbourne, Jamaica House in Carlton, in 1966.
Source: Museum Victoria Caribbean Community Photographic Collection

Caribbean migrants are often asked why they left their tropical homes to travel across the world and live in temperate Melbourne. The reasons why West Indians came to Victoria are as varied as the people themselves.

During the many years of the White Australia Policy, it was extremely difficult for non-white West Indians to migrate to Australia. Many early migrants were middle-class ‘white-enough’ West Indians from some Caribbean countries where political unrest and economic uncertainty accompanied independence around the 1960s. Following the abolition of the White Australia Policy in 1975, West Indians of all races were gradually able to migrate more freely.

Love frequently brought West Indians to Australia. Many marriages occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, when young Australians on their ‘rite of passage’ trips to Great Britain met West Indians, with whom they shared similar attitudes to life, education, values and sense of humour.

The Caribbean community has grown in recent years as younger and second-generation immigrants born in Britain, the USA and Canada have started migrating to Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census 2006, around 1200 Victorians claim West Indian ancestry.

Image Gallery

White Australia Policy letter received by Michael Ward Michael and Adrienne Ward at home in Melbourne, 2009 The Thomas family from Tabago, 1962 The Phillips family at home in Georgetown, Guyana, 1976 Tony and Schavana Phillips arrive in Perth, 1978 Gordon Veerasawmy welcomed by his family at Melbourne Airport, 1996