Statue of boy, Passengers Gallery exhibition


Why did they leave? How long was the voyage? How did they settle in a strange new country?

Most Australians have at least one relative who travelled by sea to settle in Australia, from convicts in the 18th century to refugees in the 21st.

That long sea voyage became the most important journey of their lives.

Step into this exhibition's Art Deco décor, evoking the glamorous era of ocean liner travel. Linger on the many personal items that bring voyagers' stories to life - diary excerpts, clothing, precious mementos and shipboard souvenirs. Why did they leave? How long was the voyage? How did they settle in a strange new country?

"Lying on beam ends, the ship began to break up almost immediately. One man, able seaman James Johnson, found himself hurled onto a rocky ledge and, scrambling high, became the sole survivor."

David Nutley, Heritage Conservation News, June 1991, on the Dunbar shipwreck

The First Fleet

See one of the handful of contemporary images of a ship from the First Fleet - the storeship Borrowdale.

Not Much of a Journey

A detailed model of a convict hulk sets the scene for Australia's earliest European arrivals. For non-convicts who emigrated as steerage passengers, accommodation was dark, damp and uncomfortable. Ship medical chests reveal the dangers of disease and injury. Relive the perils of sea travel through relics from the 1857 wreck of the Dunbar (with just one survivor).

Sailing to a New Life

The exhibition centrepiece is a large-scale model of the 1937 ocean liner SS Orcades, which brought migrants to Australia. In 1952, nine-year-old child migrant Bob Stephens was sent across the world from England. Precious mementos of his mother speak volumes about his enduring attachment to his family and homeland. War and Love tells the story of two Japanese women who migrated to Australia as war brides after World War II.

Explore our online exhibitions related to migration to Australia.