Sophie Couchman

Exhibition Curator, Post World War II British Migration to Australia

portrait of a woman holding a tea cup
Dr Sophie Couchman, Exhibition Curator, Post World War II British Migration to Australia

Dr Sophie Couchman joined Museum Victoria in May 2016 to work on a travelling exhibition which will explore the diverse experiences of post-World War II British migrants to Australia (1947-1982) and their ambivalent place in Australia society today. The exhibition is due to open at the Immigration Museum in September 2017.


Sophie brings to the Museum a passion for Australian immigrant history and an interest in the ways in which images, objects and oral histories can be used to tell Australia’s immigrant history.

After volunteering at the Chinese Museum in the 1990s she was inspired to undertake a Masters in Public History (2000) and then a PhD in Asian Studies (2009). Her PhD explored the meanings of photographs of Chinese Australians in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and how this imagery shaped how Chinese-Australians are viewed in Australia’s histories. As part of her PhD she developed content for the Chinese Australian Historical Images in Australia website.

In 2009 she was appointed Curator at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne where she was responsible for the Museum’s collection, generating historical content for the Museum and managing exhibitions and research projects.

Sophie has been involved in a wide range of cultural history projects including: Chungking Legation: Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in Wartime China (2015) an exhibition and book; managing the tour of Bridge of Memories: Exploring Identity, Diversity, Community (2014) to four cities in China; Language, A Key to Survival: Cantonese English Phrasebooks in Australia (2013) an online Culture Victoria website story (won MAGNA award for best ‘Interpretation, Learning and Audience Engagement’ 2014); and Remembering Chinatown: A walking tour of Little Bourke Street in the 1930s and 40s (2008) a self-guided oral history-based walking tour. In 2011 she co-convened Dragon Tails: Sources, Language, Approaches, an international conference and then, drawing on papers presented at the conference, co-edited two special issue journal issues and the edited book Chinese Australia: Politics, Engagement and Resistance (Brill, 2015).

Current activities

Sophie is also an honorary research fellow at La Trobe University and continues to present and publish on Australian immigrant history. She is currently working on a book chapter titled ‘Chinese Australian brides, photography and the white wedding’ and a journal article about the 1903 Defence Act and the exclusion of those ‘not substantially of European origin or descent’ from service during World War II.