Muslims of Victoria: Stories of migration, community and home making

Ship RMS TitanicThe Public Record Office of Victoria in collaboration with the Community, Identity and Displacement Research Network and in partnership with North Cyprus Turkish Community Centre of Victoria, Cypriot Turkish Islamic Community of Victoria are creating a digital project to record the stories of Muslims who have settled in Victoria.

The presence of ‘Mohammedans’, as the early Muslims were called, coincided with the emergence of Australia as a newly independent nation, setting up its new and often inexperienced bureaucracy, formulating and implementing laws and regulations. It was also a non-technological era in history when departmental communications were slow and laborious and States were reluctant to be dictated to by the new Federal Parliament.

The initial Muslim settlement experience took place in this difficult and unusual context in Australian history, for in the days of the White Australia Policy entry was restricted by the colour of one’s skin!

In 1966 the Australian Government introduced new laws that applied the same rules to all people migrating to Australia. This was an enormous change from the White Australia policy, introduced in 1901, which had been designed to allow only white migrants from Britain. These changes allowed migrants to be chosen for their skills, rather than their race or nationality. The new laws helped make Australia one of the world’s most multicultural countries.

Official immigration from the Turkish mainland did not begin until 1968 after the advent of the Australian-Turkish Assistance Passage Scheme, a bilateral agreement signed in 1967.

The Australian economy needed migrant workers for its expanding manufacturing industries in Melbourne and Sydney and British immigration had declined. The new scheme represented a major turning point in the history of Muslims entering Australia. The Government welcomed them with open arms and if the spirits of the old Afghan camel men and Indian hawkers were watching from afar, then perhaps they laughed aloud – a hollow laugh at best – at how times had changed!

Turkish families were allowed into Australia for permanent settlement. Unlike other guest worker schemes in Europe, wives and children were encouraged to form a family unit and to stay permanently. Wives were encouraged to work outside the home in local factories. Occupational categories recruited were mainly semi-skilled, craft and production process workers and unskilled labourers. Although the agreement aimed for an intake of thirty percent skilled workers and seventy percent unskilled, in the early years of the program, most workers who came were unskilled.

The project seeks to invite older Muslims who immigrated to Australia to share their stories.

For more information, contact Lutfiye Ali 0405 278 428

The Public Record Office Victoria provides record-keeping for the government, a photographic record of Victoria, and is the archive of state and local government in Victoria. It has extensive records of wills and probates, family history, Aboriginal Victorians, a Ned Kelly collection, along with public records of vessels and immigration to Victoria.

The Community, Identity and Displacement Research Network (CIDRN) is a public intellectual space where research activities are encouraged and promoted. This broad network aims to draw together and foster scholarly investigation of new diasporas and changing meanings of displacement and identity. It is an intellectual space where new questions about indigeneity, racism, refugees, sense of place, social inclusion, social justice, transnationalism and xenophobia can be raised, debated and discussed.



Muslims in Victoria - digital storytelling



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