by Jude Timms
The Australian National Maritime Museum will showcase a new attraction this summer, featuring iconic roofline as canvass for new light show that depicts the history of migration to Australia and the compelling stories behind the immigrants’ journey to the ‘Land Down Under.’ Premiering on Australia Day, Waves of Migration is a thought-provoking eight-minute animated light show that weaves together Australia’s rich tapestry of migration stories, encouraging audiences to reflect on the current immigration debate.
Chinese migration at Waves of Migration
Waves of Migration follows the journey of a boats, across oceans and cultures, through the passage of time. It depicts a fascinating array of personal stories from British convicts and early settlers, to Jewish refugees and displaced persons from war-torn Europe, to Ten Pound Poms, Vietnamese boat people and seaborne asylum seekers from Afghanistan.
Opening and closing with the image of an indigenous fisherman in Botany Bay, the light show acknowledges that Indigenous Australians are the only people to have witnessed all the waves of migration to this country, making it the multicultural country it is today.
The significant periods in Australia’s immigration history are depicted through vivid illustrations, including:
- The departure of Endeavour from England in 1768 under the command of Lieutenant James Cook to observe the transit of Venus and search for the legendary Great South Land;
- The voyage of the convict transport ship Charlotte in 1787, part of the First Fleet that established the NSW penal colony in 1788;
- The groups of Chinese labourers bound for the Australian gold fields onboard clipper ships like the Young America, departing Hong Kong in 1857;
- The steamship Changsha struggling to land non-European migrants in 1901 during the White Australia Policy era;
- A Jewish woman locking the front door of her home to escape Nazi persecution at the outbreak of World War II in 1939;
- Displaced persons and assisted migrants leaving the ruins of Europe behind them as they head for a new life in Australia aboard the Castel Felice after World War II;
- Ten Pound Poms enjoying the government-subsidised passage and sunshine aboard the Canberra in 1961;
- A small fishing boat loaded with Vietnamese families escaping the aftermath of the Vietnam War in 1977; and
- Afghan asylum seekers huddled together onboard an Indonesian fishing vessel.
ten pound poms low res
'Designed by award-winning projection specialists The Electric Canvas, Waves of Migration provides the Museum with an exciting opportunity to explore the use of digital projections to present contemporary maritime topics in a very engaging and accessible way,' said Australian National Maritime Museum Director, Kevin Sumption.
'It is the first time the Museum’s facade has been used as an extension of the exhibition space. We are literally bringing the inside out.'
'We hope the light show will demonstrate that our nation has, and continues to be, shaped by migrants,' he said.
The light show is supported by a dedicated website Waves of Migration with links to stories from the museum’s rich collection and a facility for people to share their own immigration stories.
One such story is that of the Lederer family’s escape from Nazi-occupied Austria to Australia. Valerie Lederer’s treasured keepsake, the key to her family home in Vienna, is inspiration for one of the scenes in the light show.
Other stories include that of 17-year-old Afghan, Hedayat Osyan, who left behind his mother and two siblings in 2009 to escape persecution by the Taliban. Travelling first to Mayalsia then Indonesia, Hedayat finally arrived on Christmas Island after being rescued by the Royal Australian Navy when the boat he was travelling in began to sink. He now lives in Sydney.
Another is that of the Lu family who travelled 6,000 kilometres from Vietnam to Australia on the fishing boat Tu Do, now part of the museum’s collection, guided only by a compass and school desk map!
Lederer family low res
Waves of Migration joins the Museum’s 100-metre-long Welcome Wall and vast collection of more than 10,000 immigration artefacts, personal diaries, letters and photographs, as a lasting tribute to the millions of people who have emigrated from around the world to settle in Australia.