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“We are Human Beings, and have a Past”: The “Adjustment” of Migrants and the Australian Assimilation Policies of the 1950s



This article argues that the assimilation policy adopted by the Australian government during the 1950s was based on a denial of a migrant's past. The assumption that the migrant would readily merge into Australian cultural life ignored the ways in which past stories and memories shape the self. Through an analysis of the Good Neighbour Councils I explore the nature of assimilation that was based on a neglect of collective war memories of immigrant groups. This perspective is distinguished from that adopted by several theorists of the day such as W.D. Borrie and Jean Martin whose studies were less crude and one-dimensional. The experiences of Greek migrants are examined to consider how Greek war stories could not often find expression or recognition in the assimilationist climate of the post-war period.