‘Desirable Types’: Australian press photography and Jewish refugees 1935–49

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This article analyses Australian news photographs of Jewish refugees during two pivotal eras: from 1935 to 1939, when increasing numbers of refugees sought asylum from Nazi persecution in Europe; and from 1945, in the wake of the Holocaust, as the Australian federal Labor government was formalising Australian citizenship and embarking on a program of expanded immigration, while still adhering to the restrictive White Australia policy. The article argues that the visual record of Jewish refugees was significant in conveying three specific if contradictory visual idioms: Australia as a sanctuary; the ideal of the ‘good citizen’, easily assimilated; and the refugee as a source of threat and disruption. Editorial regulation, political context and government censorship were fundamental to the news mediations of belonging and citizenship. The article shows that after the war, the Australian federal government sought to manage these press narratives, signalling the tenuous place of refugees in modern Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-246
Number of pages26
JournalAustralian Historical Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Press photography
  • Citizenship
  • Australian History
  • Media history
  • Jewish history
  • Refugee and asylum seeker

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