Migrant Ships to Australia and New Zealand: 1900 - 1939

by Peter Plowman

Peter Plowman examines those ships and shipping companies used to transport migrants to Australia and New Zealand from 1900 to 1939. He documents the ships bringing migrants to Australia and New Zealand from 1900 to the outbreak
of World War II: where they were built, by whom, their tonnage, dimensions, service speed and propulsion, when and where they were launched and the history of their migrant-carrying voyages.
During this period no regular assisted passage scheme was available, though
from time to time various government incentives were offered. The majority of
migrants paid the full fare, and they mostly travelled on regular passenger liners.
The first years of the new century saw the introduction of new and larger
tonnage to both Australia and New Zealand. The most notable of these vessels
was the ‘Athenic’ trio built for the New Zealand White Star Line, while from
1903 P & O took delivery of ten ‘M’ class liners for their Australian service. New
shipbuilding culminated with the five ships of the ‘Orsova’ class for the Orient
Line in 1909, while the New Zealand shipping company got three new ships
during 1909/10. A year later the P & O Branch Line got five vessels designed to
bring migrants to Australia in large numbers. The majority of migrants arriving in
Australia and New Zealand came from Great Britain, but there was also a steady flow from Germany and Italy.
The Commonwealth Government had no scheme to attract migrants to Australia. This was left to the states. In 1912 Victoria contracted with three
shipping lines to bring 24,000 British migrants to Melbourne at £12 per head.
New South Wales sought nominated immigrants, whose fares would be paid in
part for full by relatives and friends in Australia.
To meet the increase in demand for migrant passages several companies
built large cargo ships fitted with temporary quarters for a thousand or more
passengers on the outward voyage.
The high cost of a passage to New Zealand discouraged migration but numbers rose in 1904 with government assistance. The outbreak of war brought migration to a halt.
The first British government subsidised migration in 1919 was to assist exservicemen migrating to Australia and New Zealand. During 1922 no less than
15 liners joined the Australian migration trade – five ‘Bay’ ships for the Australian
Government, a second group of five ‘B’ Ships for the P & O Branch Line, two for
the Aberdeen line plus three ex-German ships operated by the Orient Line.
Early 1920s saw one of New Zealand’s major immigrations flows. It also saw a
dramatic rise in the number of Italian migrants heading for Australia. in 1925 the
British and Australian Governments announced they would fund the immigration
of about 450,000 men and women to Australia from Britain. The Depression hit
migrant numbers to Australia and New Zealand. In 1938 Australia re- introduced
an assisted migration scheme from Britain. However, the outbreak of war in
September 1939 halted all migration.

192 pages, 285 x 210 mm, 186 monochrome photos, $49.90, softcover. 770 grams