Migration Interviews








Instructions taken from your CAT task sheet:

Recording History - Migration Interview

Australia is a multicultural nation with a rich heritage. Many of our inhabitants are migrants or children of migrants who left their homeland to migrate to Australia. In so doing they dreamed of a better life. For many, living in Australia has offered them opportunities and freedoms previously denied to them, for others the migration experience has been difficult and their dreams have not been fully realised.

Your task is to interview one person who has migrated to Australia or whose family has migrated to Australia. This may be a relative, neighbour, acquaintance or school friend. The focus of the interview is on recording their story.

We know that history is shaped by individual experience, memory and context.

That history helps us to know who we are and where we do/don’t belong – collectively (family, nation etc.) and individually. That we can learn from the past and the stories of others. Your interview and presentation will add to our collective understanding of the history of migration to Australia and the impact of that migration on the individuals themselves as well as the Australian community.

You will need to interview your chosen person and submit:

a)    Your interview sheet and

b)   A transcript/recording of the interview for assessment. 

Your first step will therefore be to create an interview sheet with a list of questions that you will be asking in the interview.  You will need a mix of open and closed questions that allow you elicit information that will help you understand the historical background to the migration. eg. “What prompted you / your parents to consider leaving your homeland to come to Australia?” “What do you remember about this event?”, “How did it affect you?” etc.

Typical questions will seek to answer: Who, what, how, when, where, why? You will also need to explore what their experience of settling in Australia has been like. What challenges have they faced? What lessons have they learned? What can we learn from their experience?


How can the resources available at the library help?

To help you locate information that will help to fit your interviewee's story into the broader story of migration history, the library has a number of excellent resources to offer. You will find that the information presented in a lot of non-fiction books gives you a more comprehensive overview of big ideas such as 'the White Australia Policy', 'Bring out a Brit/Ten Pound Poms' and Australia's embracing of multiculturalism and the arrival of Vietnam War refugees in the 1970s and 1980s. Your ever helpful librarians have placed a lot of these resources together into a tub - so feel free to make use of both the books and your librarian's expertise in finding good information.


Online resources:

The first place to check should be museum Victoria's migration origins website for information on specific migrant communities in Victoria.

The Federal Department of Immigration has a timeline on their website that will give you a brief background on different periods in our migration history. You can find a similar (but more detailed) chronological timeline here and here (split into two sections.)

The ABC's 'Splash' website has a range of videos on migrant's experiences in Australia which might help you to think about the sorts of questions you could ask your interviewee (limit the search results to 'Australian Culture' near the top of the page.) Other videos covering a range of migrant groups can be found at The Age and SBS.

To locate specific information on the historical causes of migration from your interviewee's home country, use specific search terms such as 'Thai migration to Australia' 'videos' 'statistics' 'causes' 'Thai history 1980-2000.' etc.

Remember also to ask your teacher to help you find key things to research. If you want to compare migration from Britain in the 1970s to the 2000s, you will need to know something about 'Ten Pound Poms' compared to the globalised world of today.

Having answers to the following questions will help you:

  • Why did members of this migrant group leave their home country? (Social, political and economic forces.)
  • How did they arrive in Australia?
  • When did people from this group tend to migrate to Australia?
  • Where in Australia did they tend to settle?
  • What jobs did they typically do when they first arrived?
  • What attitudes did they experience from Australians when they arrived?
  • What contributions to Australian culture have migrants from this community made?

Other specific resources:


English/Scottish migration to Australia:

You tube : Ten pound Pom

Migration stories from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka:

Migration Heritage NSW  -  migrant stories from South Asia to Sydney

Digital Learning - an Australian Greek wife


For those studying the Czechs – the Hungarian Revolution:

ABC : Radio National  -  the Hungarian Revolution

Women's stories (from various places):

Women Australia  - women and migration to Australia since 1945

A list of different cultural groups

Immigration Museum - an excellent site for background issues - using the list of countries on the left hand side, you can select a country and find information about the numbers who migrated to Australia, when they arrived etc.


Examples of questions that you can ask

*It is a good idea to make sure that you modify the list of questions below so that you are responding specifically to the information provided by the person you are interviewing.*


List of potential questions 

·      What was life like in (…) before you left?

Follow up: What do you miss most about it now?

Follow up: Which family and friends did you leave back in (…)

Follow up: What were some of the best things about your (original country)? 

·      What did you (or your father/mother) do for work before you migrated?

Follow up: Was this different to the work you did/do in Australia? How?

Follow up: Can you tell me more about your first few days of work?

·      What do you know about (our/your) family’s history? Where did they live and what did they do?

Follow up: What last names are there in your family?

Follow up: What about the other side of your family?

·      What made you come toAustralia?

Follow up: (If they came with theirparents) What made your parents come to Australia?

·      When and how did you travel here?

Follow up: (If someone tells you they arrived on a ship, ask them if they know what happened to that ship later/ or ask them what life was like on that ship.)

·      What was the hardest thing to adjust to when you came to Australia?

Follow up: Would you call this  ‘culture shock’?

Follow up: What things are similar between the two countries?

·      Did you have any trouble understanding the words Australians used when they spoke to you?

Follow up: Can you think of any examples?

Follow up: Where there any other strange things that people do here (example: everybody queues for everything.)

·      What did you know about Australia before you came?

Follow up: Did it turn out to all be true?

Follow up: What surprised you the most when you got here? 

·      Who was the first Australian you made friends with, and how did you become friends?

Follow up: When you first arrived, did you get to know your neighbours?

·     Can you think of any funny stories from when you migrated to Australia?

Follow up: What happened next? 

·      Have you ever been back ‘home’ since you left?

Follow up: What did it feel like to return?

·      What traditions from your family’s culture do you still practice?

Follow up: Why do you think you do this?

·      How would you describe Australia to people from your original home?

Follow up: Compared to other places, is there anything about Australia that makes it seem ‘special?’ (examples: ‘a fair-go’, ‘the Lucky Country’.)

·      (If they have Australian children or brothers and sisters ask) Do you think your (son/daughter/younger sibling) is a different person because of being born and raised here? How?

·      What would you like to see happen in Australia’s future?

·      How do you feel about migrants coming to Australia today?

Follow up: Do you think Australia should take in more or less migrants?

Follow up: What about refugees who are seeking protection?


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