The journey of the Ten Pound Poms: From immigration to television

May 13, 2023
The Ten Pound Pom movement was the largest migration scheme in history. Source: Getty

The promise of new beginnings following World War II, the lure of stable employment, and the idea of endless fun in the Australian sun – all for a mere ten pounds – and the Ten Pound Pom immigration movement was born. 

The scheme was simple, for transportation at such a low price, Australia could mend the after-effects of war, using British citizens to fix its workforce and nation-rebuilding problem.

The offer of a fresh start for only ten pounds was too good to resist for many Brits struggling with their own after-effects of war and economic hardship, resulting in around 1.5 million British citizens flocking to Australia from 1945 -1972. 


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Despite the movement being an amazing success, leaving a lasting imprint still visible in our society today, the Ten Pound Poms faced significant challenges with life in Australia. 

Not only did they face the hardships involved with adapting to a new way of life with different customs, foods, and accents, but many felt isolated, lonely, and homesick – made worse by discrimination from some Australians. 

Despite bringing a strong work ethic and a desire to contribute to their new home, some locals targeted the Ten Pound Poms for taking Aussie jobs, looking down on them as being inferior and making them feel unwelcome. Not to mention the scheme was also criticized for its impact on Indigenous Australians and their land rights.

Now, the plight of the Ten Pound Poms who helped to shape the country’s identity is being seen like never before with the captivating new drama series highlighting the ups and downs of this significant chapter in the history of Australia and the UK. 

The show follows the Roberts family who is running from some hard truths in their life, hopeful that the move across the world will fix everything. However, their new life in Australia isn’t what they imagined, riddled with secrets and surrounded by discrimination and racism.

From the creators of Stan and BBC, the nostalgic history of Ten Pound Poms is brought to life in a Stan Original Series, featuring Britain’s BAFTA-winning actor Warren Brown who plays dad and former WWII soldier, Terry Roberts. Terry’s wife, Annie, is played by British actress Faye Marsay, who perfectly portrays the life and struggles of a 1950s wife and finding community in an immigration camp. 

Starts at 60 spoke with the main antagonist in Terry’s story, David Field, known for his roles in Shantaram (2022), Preacher (2016) and The Inbetweeners 2 (2014), to get the inside scoop of what viewers can expect in this new series on Stan.

How familiar were you with the history of the Ten Pound Pom before you got into the role?

“More through just having grown up and using those phrases and hearing Mum and Dad talk about those things, but nothing specific. So yeah, did a bit of homework once I got hold of the role, which was interesting. I remember reading that I think they were allowing for 70,000 people to enter using the scheme and they ended up with 400,000 people that applied, which is extraordinary.”

Obviously, you play a little bit of a villain, and while I think it’s so important that your character helps to shed light on the issues both immigrants and First Nations people faced in the ‘50s, what it was like for you to play the role of the antagonist, especially in relation to Australia’s history?

“I mean, I’ve played a lot of villain roles in my time. So you know, one of the things about playing a racist, or someone in that vein, is that you have an obligation to honour the people you’re being racist to, you know what I mean? But the racism with the English is a totally different thing. It’s a little more complex because it’s tied up in culture and tied up in that Australian working-class chip on the shoulder. I think there are elements of what would have been the attitude postwar towards Churchill. And you know, a lot of the English leaders lead us into some pretty dire places. We were very much under their command and I think there would have been memories of that. And I also think it’s this thing of, concern that they were going to take our jobs. Which is still a thing today.”

While this series does cover some of the rougher and darker sides of the ‘50s, it also highlights some nostalgic elements that no longer exist. Are there any elements of that era that you wish were still around today?

“Yeah, there’s a lot of things I wish were still here, like the camaraderie of workmates. I think you know when I was younger you were immediately just open arms as soon as you worked with people. And to be invited to either have a feed or come around for a drink or whatever it be, a barbeque or whatever, was very common. You took people’s word for things and I think we were less judgemental. Yeah, and I think there are lots of things that we miss, but there are also a lot of things that we’re glad to have changed too. But yeah, the department store was special, being given the chance to buy something like a dress or a jumper, we treasured those. We were less ‘throw away’ and we’d mend things, fix them.” 

Is there any other period in Australian history that you’d like to either play or direct?

“I think the ‘70s are really interesting, in Sydney and Melbourne, when you had Brett Whiteley and The Yellow House and George Gittoes and all those amazing artists starting, and people were undertaking that sort of ‘60s American culture. There was so much freedom in this country, it was revolutionary. The antiestablishment was a really great and interesting time. And it was usurped by the government and the powers that be in capitalism, and all those freedom kids went on to become great accountants.”

So David, my final question, as you’ve recently joined the over 60s club, how are you finding life in your 60s so far?

I’m still here, two legs still walking! You know, I think life starts when you choose it to start, I think life starts when you decide that your spirit’s worthy in this world, and it could be any age. But if someone feels that age is something that’s stopping them from doing anything, that’s foolish. 

The Stan Original Series Ten Pound Poms premieres Sunday, 14 May, only on Stan.

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