Recording the Journey, 1940s–60s

Page from the J. R. Alderton scrapbook
A page from the J. R. Alderton scrapbook, a collection of images and mementoes collected aboard the Fairsea in 1967.
Source: Barbara Alderton

By the 1950s it was increasingly common for the journey to Australia to be recorded on film and in photographs. Migrants were able to purchase cameras, photo albums and scrapbooks on board and added photographs and film to the souvenirs they collected on their journey.

Onboard newsletters also became popular and were encouraged by the shipping lines, although they did not always result in the positive image sought. For example, the 'Kangaroo' newsletter from the Hellenic Prince contains an article written by the passengers complaining about sanitary and other conditions on board.

People vomited anywhere and everywhere. The corridors stank and this further worsened queasy and unsettled stomachs. [This sort of report was usually not included in printed materials or newsletters that appeared on board the ship.]
– Joe Vella migrated from Malta in 1955

However, many migrants recorded a much more positive impression of their journey to Australia, and have fond memories of their shipboard 'holiday'.

The Fairsea – our home for five weeks, was the best part of my early life. I had been born in an air-raid shelter in London, so only knew destruction around me. My trip was very exciting. We had lovely meals, dances, entertainment, deck games, swimming and many other pastimes. We stopped off in Aden and rode a camel through the streets. I can't even remember feeling sad at leaving my home country, England.
– Doreen Hakowski (formerly Sillett) migrated from England in 1956.


  • Visit Museum Victoria's information sheets:

    Scroll down to 'Ships of Station Pier' and read the information provided about each ship.

    What passenger experiences are recorded? Did most passengers enjoy their voyage to Australia?

  • Find some people in your community who migrated to Australia by ship in the 1940s-1960s.

    Talk to them about their memories of the voyage.

    What was the accommodation and food like? What did they do to pass the time? Who did they meet? What are their most vivid memories?

Image Gallery

Page from the J. R. Alderton scrapbook Page from the J. R. Alderton scrapbook