Immigrant Stories

Portrait of taxi driver in front of the first taxi he drove, ca. 1972.

Settling into a new country is not easy. Immigrants have to adapt to an unfamiliar environment and lifestyle, while maintaining aspects of their previous culture and way of life.

Many newcomers to Victoria spent their new lives in limbo, spending months in temporary migrant accommodation, committed to two year labour contracts. For others, settlement has been far easier because they spoke English, or government had offered assistant land or home scheme.

Generations of immigrants have had to adapt to a new climate, new landscape, new language, new currency, and new lifestyle, especially those who have settled in rural areas.

Each immigrant has their own unique story to tell. Whilst for many it was difficult, the vast majority eventually found their feet. The immigrant stories below explore why they came, where they settled and how they started a new life in Victoria.

The stories

Attache Case: creating a collective artwork

In 2015, curator, writer and artist Peter Burke invited current and former asylum seekers and refugees to create artworks for an international touring installation that addressed their experiences.

Three young girls looking at the camera. They are playing tea parties


Fair and fascinating: girls in 19th century Victoria.

Setsutaro Hasegawa on a doctor’s visit, possibly in Melbourne, Victoria, early 1950s

Setsutaro Hasegawa

Setsutaro Hasegawa, Japanese migrant and WWII internee, 1897-1952

Eleven Mokambo Orchestra band members, including a female singer. Band leader Ugo Ceresoli with accordion at far right. There are six music stands standing in front of band members across the front of stage.

The Ceresoli brothers

It is 1964, on a footpath in Carlton. Outside La Cumparsita Hall small groups of finely-dressed revellers take in the cool air. They are here for the music and spectacle of the Ceresoli brothers’ Ballo Mokambo.

Nickel and Gertrude Mundabi outside church in Cameroon.

Nickel Mundabi Ngadwa

Nickel arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2009 but trying to be an artist in a new country has many challenges. He cannot return to the country of his birth.

Portrait of family aboard Patris, 1967.

Youssef, Romanos and Tansa Eid

The Eid brothers migrated from Lebanon and established taxi businesses in the early 1970s. Handling 'the good, the bad and the ugly' in the back seat became a way of life.

Karl Muffler, 1920s.

Karl Muffler

Karl sat decorating cakes behind a barbed-wire fence. It was not the future he had imagined when he first arrived in Australia.

Woman in a formal crested kimono

Masumi Hiraga Jackson

Alone in a new country in 1987, Masumi had a critical decision to make – stay in Melbourne or return home to Japan.

Man digging

Jose Alonso and Gaston Arias Munoz

Two men who left the political turmoil of their beloved homelands to migrate to Australia. Yet their experiences could not be more different.

Family photograph of Sidney Louey Gung.

May and Sydney Louey Gung

The Gung family: three Chinese generations since 1890.

* This story is no longer showing in the Immigrant Stories exhibition.

Join the mailing list and get the latest from our Museums direct to your inbox.

Share your thoughts to WIN

We'd love to hear about your experience with our website. Our survey takes less than 10 minutes and entries go in a draw to win a $100 gift voucher at our online store!