Migration Museum, Adelaide – A place worth visiting

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Entrance to Adelaide Migration Museum

Adelaide’s free Migration Museum — A great place for family historians to visit.

The museum reflects the diverse cultures of South Australia, displaying objects that have a story to tell. The early galleries present the history of early migration into South Australia, highlighting the differences with the other colonies, especially no convicts.  At the same time the museum puts the movement towards a white Australia into a national context. The white Australia policy became official in 1901 after the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Britain was unhappy with the white Australia policy because it was a system that denied equality to people within the Empire. To avoid a blatantly racist policy the Australian government introduced a dictation test, adopted from one in use in Natal, whereby a person could be asked to write down or translate a list of 50 words in any European language. The test was used primarily to keep out Asians, but also many Europeans, because any language could be chosen for the test.  Displays pointed out that no one taking the test after 1909 passed, and it remained in use until 1958. Things are very different in Australia now, but it does help to explain the high preponderance of British Isles connections among Australian families. The museum also has displays on the many different ethnic groups that have come to Australia since the ending of its “white policy” rules.

I also enjoyed an exhibit covering John McDouall Stuart’s journeys into the Australian outback in the 1850s and 1860s, when he attempted to find a route from coast to coast. The hardships experienced in the central desert from lack of water, food and sometimes hostile aborigines created a number of failures. He did succeed in 1862 and upon returning to Adelaide he was welcomed as a hero.

Family historians will enjoy visiting this small Adelaide museum dedicated to migration.

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