James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Assisted Migration Schemes

Almost certainly William and May Owen's passage was subsidised by one of the post-WWI assisted migration schemes. These operated to various parts of the British Empire, to the mutual benefit of the countries involved which jointly funded them. Australia needed people per se but the predominant ethnic group, of British descent, did not want to be swamped by Asian immigrants (at the turn of the century there was legislation prohibiting non-European immigration to Australia) nor by so-called 'white aliens' (non-British Europeans). Thus schemes were created to attract British settlers and between 1921 and 1929 approximately 221,000 took advantage of them with a further 100,000 immigrants arriving independently. Most went to New South Wales or to Victoria but a significant number went to Western Australia. As a war veteran, William would have qualified for the Soldier Settlement Scheme but he appears to have availed himself of the "Peel Estate Group Settlement Scheme" (map) which operated from the early 1920s. (Early settlers had found the work was too much for one man or one couple alone so settlements had been organised into groups of twelve to twenty interdependent families.)

Post-WWI Britain was flooded with propaganda (posters, pamphlets and films) encouraging migration to parts of the empire. William and May, like many others, were persuaded by promises of 'ready made farms' and 'a new life, a new start on your own dairy farm in the paradise of Western Australia' but one aim of the scheme was to populate its ‘empty spaces’ and many were to find their landscape barren, wild and inhospitable. The often exaggerated, sometimes downright misleading, claims of the propaganda began to trouble Australian politicians; one cited a promotional film describing the climate of Western Australia as being ‘mild as a mother’s kiss’ and the soil ‘as kindly as God’s love’. Men like William, whose horizons had been extended by their experiences in WWI, were easily tempted by the promises of a life literally a world apart from the post-war austerity and unemployment of Britain. A childless young couple like William and May were ideal candidates for the scheme.