Government Policy before 1938

Hitler’s assumption of power and the persecution of Jews in Germany after 1933 created a refugee problem, which by 1938 had reached crisis point. Australia was seen as a suitable place of refuge because of its small population, low birth rate and democratic traditions. Jewish representatives requested the Australian government to permit more Jewish refugees to settle, but until 1936 such requests met with a negative response. Only aliens with £500 (which was a large sum for those times) or dependent relatives of residents were allowed to enter, so that few Jewish refugees arrived before 1936.

Due to the intensification of Nazi antisemitism and the slow improvement of economic conditions, in 1936 the government reduced the landing money to £50 and agreed that a responsible Jewish organisation could act as guarantor, leading to the formation of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society in 1937. Aliens without a guarantor needed £200, and there was a quota system for the issue of landing permits.