10 facts about the real-life ‘Ten Pound Poms’ (and their famous children!)

Ten Pound Poms launched this week, but what was the real-life scheme the series is based on?

BBC One’s new period drama follows a group of Brits as they depart post-war Britain in 1956 for a life-altering adventure on the other side of the world.

Starring Michelle Keegan (Our Girl), Faye Marsay (Game of Thrones) and Warren Brown (Luther), Ten Pound Poms is airing on Sunday nights on BBC One in the UK.

All six episodes are already streaming on BBC iPlayer, and available to watch on Stan in Australia.

Here’s the trailer:

“For only a tenner, they have been promised a better house, better job prospects and a better quality of life by the sea in sun-soaked Australia,” the official synopsis tells us.

“But life down under isn’t exactly the idyllic dream the new arrivals have been promised. Struggling with their new identity as immigrants, we follow their triumphs and pitfalls as they adapt to a new life in a new country, far from Britain and familiarity.”

Let’s take a look at ten interesting Ten Pound Poms facts:


1. Ten Pound Poms was a slang term to describe British citizens who migrated to Australia and New Zealand after World War II.


2. The term “whinging poms” became a derogatory term for Brits who moaned about the Australian conditions and heat – pom was an abbreviation for pomegranate, referring to the Brits’ sunburned faces!


3. The Australian Government set up the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme in 1945 and the Government of New Zealand launched a similar scheme in July 1947.

It formed part of Australia’s “Populate or Perish” policy, intended to substantially increase the population of Australia and to supply workers for the country’s booming industries.


4. Between 1945 and 1972, the Ten Pound Poms scheme attracted more than one million migrants from the British Isles.

Even more migrants were encouraged to travel in 1957 following a campaign called “Bring Out a Briton.” The scheme peaked in 1969 with more than 80,000 migrants taking advantage of the scheme!


5. £10 bought a six-week assisted passage on chartered ships and aircraft, with the promise of good employment prospects, affordable housing, endless sunshine and a brand new, more optimistic life down under: “Your family will flourish in Australia.”

Upon their arrival, however, migrants were placed in basic migration hostels and the expected job opportunities weren’t always readily available.


6. The equivalent of about £350 today, the ten pound charge covered processing fees for migration whilst “youngsters under 19” could travel for free.

The cost was increased to £75 in 1973, and the scheme ran until 1982.


7. The scheme also included residents of British colonies like Malta and Cyprus, with schemes to assist selected migrants from the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and West Germany in the 1950s.


8. Migrants were required to remain in Australia for 2 years – or they had to pay back the cost of their assisted passage.

A return journey to Britain would cost them at least £120 (around £4,200 in today’s money!), which most couldn’t afford to pay.

An estimated quarter of British migrants went back to the UK within the first two years, although half of these – the so-called “Boomerang Poms” – later returned to Australia.


9. Up until 1 December 1973, migrants from Commonwealth countries could apply for Australian citizenship after just one year’s residency.

That was then extended to three years, the requirements being place of residence, good character, knowledge of the language and rights and duties of citizenship, and the intention to live permanently in Australia.

Relatively few British migrants took up Australian citizenship though.


10. Famous children of Ten Pound Poms include Kylie and Dannii Minogue!

Both born in Melbourne, the singers are the daughters of car company accountant Ronald Minogue and his wife Carole Ann, a former ballet dancer, who moved to Australia in 1958 on the ship Fairsea.

On the same ship were the Gibb Family, later of Bee Gees fame! They spent their first few years in Manchester then moved to Queensland where they began their musical careers.

Sydney-born actor Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman, Les Miserables) is also the son of English parents who moved to Australia in 1967 as part of the Ten Pound Poms scheme.


There’s no confirmed US broadcaster for Ten Pound Poms yet, but we’ll keep you updated.

Ten Pound Poms: A Life History of British Post-war Emigration to Australia is available on Amazon.