Immigration Department celebrates 70th Birthday

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) today celebrates 70 years since it was first appointed to build the nation through migration after World War II.

On 13th July 1945, the Department of Immigration was formally established by then-Prime Minister Ben Chifley under the stewardship of the country’s first Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell. The new Department took over the functions of the Immigration Branch of the Department of the Interior in a move that signalled a change in Australia’s priorities.

Current DIBP Secretary, Mr Michael Pezzullo, believes that this was a crucial time in Australia’s history: “Australia came out of World War II with the belief that we needed to increase our population to avoid the threat of invasion,” he explained. “As many of the staff of the former Immigration Branch were still undertaking active military service, the Department commenced with only 24 officers –  six based in Canberra, six in Melbourne and 12 in London – and an enormous task ahead.”

Over the coming years, thousands of mostly European migrants would come to Australian shores, bringing with them a variety of languages, cuisine and culture and signalling the start of the diverse nation that Oz is today.

Since then, the Department has played a significant role in continuing to build the nation through managed migration, and citizenship.

“Our Department has managed the permanent migration of more than seven million people, including over 800 000 refugees,” Mr Pezzullo said. “In addition, we have facilitated a significant contribution to the Australian economy through our temporary entrant and student visa programmes.”

The Department recently added a new focus on border protection to its many other important responsibilities, with the amalgamation of the immigration and customs functions and the establishment of the new integrated Department and the Australian Border Force.

“We will continue to be a key contributor in our inclusive, multicultural democracy while maintaining the integrity of Australia’s borders,” Mr Pezzullo said.