Shortlist year: 2018

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: NewSouth Publishing

170,000 displaced persons arrived in Australia between 1947 and 1952. Australia's first immigration minister, Arthur Calwell, scoured post-war Europe for refugees, displaced persons he characterised as 'Beautiful Balts'. Amid the hierarchies of the White Australia Policy, the tensions of the Cold War and the national need for labour, these people would transform not only Australia's immigration policy, but the country itself. Beautiful Balts tells the extraordinary story of these people. It traces their journey from the camps of Europe after the Second World War to a new life in a land of opportunity where prejudice, parochialism, and anti-communism were rife.

About the author


Jayne Persian

Jayne Persian is a historian of modern Australia and has a PhD in history from the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on the political, cultural and social history of the 170,000 'Displaced Persons'—predominantly Central and Eastern Europeans—who arrived in Australia as International Refugee Organisation (IRO) sponsored refugees. She is currently a lecturer in history at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba.

Judges’ comments

Beautiful Balts is set in the post Second World War period, between 1947 and 1952, when 170,000 displaced persons arrived in Australia from Eastern Europe. This book puts into context a long-neglected subject of Australian history. Persian provides a new perspective on the White Australia Policy that still haunts our nation. Beautiful Balts demonstrates how important it is to comprehend our immigration history in order to be able to understand Australia today. One of its strengths is the revelations of how diverse these immigrants were, ethnically as well as politically. It provides a detailed picture of their diverse backgrounds and the original context. The book is a truthful, honest history that provides a picture of the time and reflection on current policies.