Early refugee settlement
Australia has been settling refugees for at least 170 years. The first easily identifiable group of refugees were Lutherans who began settling in South Australia from 1839 to escape restrictions on their right to worship within the state of Prussia. During the 19th century, other settlers included Hungarians, Italians and Poles leaving situations of religious and political persecution. After Federation, the new Australian nation continued to allow refugees to settle as unassisted migrants, as long as they met the restrictions imposed by the Immigration (Restriction) Act 1901, the cornerstone of the White Australia Policy. In the following three decades, small numbers of Russian, Greek, Bulgarian, Armenian, Assyrian and Jewish refugees were permitted to settle after proving they met Australia’s migration criteria. Between 1933 and 1939, more than 7,000 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were settled. In 1937, the Australian Jewish Welfare Society pioneered the first refugee settlement support services, with financial assistance from the Australian Government. This settlement program was cut short by the outbreak of World War II.