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Child's spectacles issued to Mall Karp by the International Refugee Organisation

Date: 1948
Overall: 105 mm
Display Dimensions: 35 x 120 x 110 mm
Medium: Plastic, metal, glass.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Mall Juske
Object Name: Spectacles
Object No: 00006198

User Terms

    These spectacles were issued to Estonian immigrant, Mall Juske, by the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) in 1948. Mall’s family spent nearly three years in a displaced persons camp in Germany before migrating to Australia. The family's acceptance for migration was hindered because of Mall’s poor eyesight. Mall passed her medical test after the IRO issued her with these glasses, enabling her family to migrate to Australia on SS CYRENIA in 1949.

    SignificanceThe spectacles are a humble symbol of an Estonian family’s migration to Australia during a time of chaos and uncertainty. The spectacles and other keepsakes like it highlight the importance and sentimental value of individual possessions. They reflect how personal items, carried in these circumstances, were seen as important family heirlooms. This is especially significant in light of the fact that displaced persons, who were fleeing their homelands in the aftermath of World War II, were unable to carry many possessions on their journeys to Australia. Mall Juske valued these glasses as the single thing that safeguarded her entry to Australia.
    HistoryWorld War II wreaked devastation across many European countries. Between 1947 and 1953, more than 170,000 European displaced people were settled in Australia through the Displaced Persons' Resettlement Scheme. This agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the International Refugee Organisation marked a major shift in Australian immigration policy, which had previously prioritised British migration.

    Many migrants chose Australia because it was the first country to accept family groups. Migrant hostels were established in various locations across Australia to accommodate displaced persons. In exchange for free passage, displaced persons were required to work for the Australian Government, often in remote areas, for a period of two years.

    Thirteen-year-old Mall Juske (née Karp) and her family migrated to Australia through the displaced persons scheme in 1949. They had lived in a displaced persons camp in Germany for nearly three years. Conditions in the camp were reasonable, with shared accommodation and schooling facilities provided, and food and clothing rations distributed by American troops.

    The Karp family heard about the opportunities available in Australia through a family friend who had been living in Sydney since the 1930s. As a result, Mall’s parents applied to migrate to Australia. Mall’s parents passed the selection process, which included a fitness test, but Mall was told that she would need prescription glasses before the family could be accepted. After obtaining a pair of spectacles, Mall and her family travelled from Germany, through Switzerland and on to Italy, before boarding the passenger liner CYRENIA at Genoa.

    CYRENIA originally operated under the name MAUNGANUI for the Union Steamship Company. MAUNGANUI was launched in 1911 to service the Trans-Tasman route. After serving as a troop transport during World War I, MAUNGANUI recommenced the Trans-Tasman trade, with additional stops to Vancouver. During World War II, the liner was once again requisitioned by the New Zealand Government, this time as a hospital ship. In 1947 the vessel was sold, renamed CYRENIA, and refitted as a migrant carrier for voyages between Italy and Australia. For the next eight years, CYRENIA aided the relocation of thousands of European immigrants to Australia’s shores, until it was sold to ship breakers in 1956.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Child's spectacles issued to Mall Karp by the International Refugee Organisation

    Web title: Child's spectacles issued to Mall Karp by the International Refugee Organisation

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