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MIGRANT SHIPS TO AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND 1900 TO 1939

285 x 210 mm, 192 pp, 186 b&w photos

9781877058592, $35.00, Paperback

Peter Plowman

Available: Now

In the early years of the twentieth century notable British companies providing passenger services to Australia included P&O, the Orient-PSNC joint service, and the Aberdeen Line, as well as North German Lloyd and the French company, Messageries Maritimes, while Shaw Savill & Albion, White Star Line and the New Zealand Shipping Company were the main operators to New Zealand. The first ten years of the new century saw the regular 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 passenger trade of the White Star Line, while from 1903 P&O took delivery of ten ‘M’ class liners for their Australian service.

New shipbuilding culminated with 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 vast 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 and 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 person over three years. New South Wales was also seeking nominated immigrants, whose fares would be paid in part or full by relatives or friends already in Australia.

To meet the increase in demand for migrant passages to Australia and New Zealand, 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 with the start in 1904 of government assistance, and boomed in the six years before World War I, peaking at 12,000 net migration in 1913.

The outbreak of war brought the transportation of migrants to Australia and New Zealand to a halt, with many ships being taken for military duty, leaving a skeleton service which gradually reduced to nothing as the war progressed. The end of the war brought about another boom in demand, and the first British government subsidised migration. Starting with a scheme in 1919 to assist ex-servicemen migrating to Australia and New Zealand.

During 1922 alone no less than fifteen liners joined the Australian migrant trade, of which twelve were brand new, these being the five ‘Bay’ ships built for the Australian Government, a second group of five ‘B’ ships for the P&O Branch Line, and two ships built for the Aberdeen Line, Sophocles and Diogenes, plus three ex-German vessels operated by the Orient Line.

The early 1920s also saw one of New Zealand’s major immigration flows. The number of migrants arriving in Australia from Italy rose dramatically and continued steadily through the 1920s. In 1925 the British and Australian Governments announced that over the next ten years they would fund the migration of about 450,000 men and women from Britain to Australia.

An economic downturn hit New Zealand in 1927 became a full depression in 1929. The number of migrants seeking passages to Australia dropped in 1930.

To attract migrants, in 1938 Australia decided to reintroduce an assisted migration scheme from Britain, but in September 1939 the movement of migrants to Australia and New Zealand stopped with the outbreak of war in Europe.