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The true story behind BBC’s Ten Pound Poms

Michelle Keegan, Faye Marsay and Warren Brown star in the timely migration drama

Ten Pound Poms is the new show from Brassic writer Danny Brocklehurst. (Credit: Eleven, John Platt/Mark Rogers, BBC).
Ten Pound Poms is the new show from Brassic writer Danny Brocklehurst. (BBC). (BBC/Eleven/John Platt/Mark Rogers)

For his latest small-screen drama, Brassic mastermind Danny Brocklehurst heads to Australia to tell a timely story of migration, place and home in Ten Pound Poms.

This six-part BBC One drama series features Michelle Keegan, Faye Marsay and Warren Brown, and takes its cues from the real-life experiences of Brits who left post-war Britain for the promise of a brighter future and a brand new life in Australia.

However, after travelling around the world, their arrival wasn't easily accepted by locals, with relocated families left struggling with their new immigrant identities and grappling with the sometimes harsh realities of living the Australian dream.

Read more: Michelle Keegan still feels typecast after Corrie

Ten Pound Poms promises to deliver another thought-provoking hit from the same Manchester-based Bafta winner that brought us Christopher Eccleston’s Come Home and Netflix hit Safe starring Michael C. Hall.

However, the real story that inspired it is just as compelling as any work of fiction.

When is Ten Pound Poms on the BBC?

Ten Pound Poms airs on BBC One every Sunday night at 9pm. If you can’t wait for the next episode, all six installments are available to stream on BBC iPlayer now.

What is the real story behind BBC’s Ten Pound Poms?

Ten Pound Poms is based on a real-life story of migration. (Credit: Eleven, John Platt, BBC)
Ten Pound Poms is based on a real-life story of migration. (Credit: Eleven, John Platt, BBC) (BBC/Eleven/John Platt)

The term ‘Ten Pound Poms’ was given to British citizens who migrated from England to Australia and New Zealand in the wake of the Second World War.

For just £10, families were able to access journeys to Australia via aircraft and six-week chartered ship trips and promised new employment opportunities, better housing and — of course — much better weather than they were used to back home in rainy England.

Read more: Mark Wright opens up about long-distance relationship with Michelle Keegan

The programme has roots in the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme which was introduced by the Australian government in 1945 as a way to lure more people to their shores to boost employment.

New Zealand’s government launched a similar scheme just two years later and together they formed part of a ‘Populate or Perish’ initiative designed to help staff the dual countries' growing industry boom.

Australian-born actor Vincent Ball chats to Martin and Anna Williams at the Australian exhibit at the Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia, London, 28th August 1956. The children are about to emigrate to Sydney with their parents, under the government-assisted 'Ten Pound Poms' scheme. (Photo by Ron Case/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Australian-born actor Vincent Ball promoting the 'Ten Pound Poms' scheme at the Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia, London, 28 August 1956. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) (Ron Case via Getty Images)

Interested families were swayed by glowing advertising initiatives that boasted claims that said “your family will flourish in Australia” and at its peak in 1969, the scheme had attracted more than 80,000 people who were all willing to sell up and relocate down under for only a tenner.

However, when they arrived in their new country, things weren’t exactly as they had been promised.

Families found themselves placed in hostel living situations usually set aside for migrants, while the thriving job opportunities that had convinced many to make the trip weren’t always readily available.

Ten Pound Poms,14-05-2023,1,Kate (MICHELLE KEEGAN),Eleven,John Platt
Michelle Keegan in Ten Pound Poms. (BBC) (BBC/Eleven/John Platt)

To make matters worse, new families had to work hard to integrate themselves with the local Australian communities. Commonly referred to as ‘Poms’ thanks to the ruddy, pomegranate-like complexion of some Brits, Australian residents began referring to newcomers as ‘Whinging Poms’ after many would complain about the heat.

In order to gain full Australian citizenship, Ten Pound Poms had to stay in the country for a year and if they decided they wanted to return to the United Kingdom, they would have to refund their own travel costs.

While this only set them back £10 at that time, this price equates to around £350 by today’s standards — an amount many could not easily afford.

Original 'Ten Pound Poms' were promised a new life in Australia for just £10. (Credit: Eleven, John Platt, BBC).
Original 'Ten Pound Poms' were promised a new life in Australia for just £10. (Credit: Eleven, John Platt, BBC). (BBC?Eleven/John Platt)

With a return flight to Britain costing £120 (approximately £4,200 by today’s translation), many decided to stay and pursue their new life in Australia.

While around a quarter of migrants eventually returned home within the first two years, many ultimately returned to Australia, earning the nickname ‘Boomerang Poms’.

Through the scheme, many immigrant families found new, happy homes in their new Australia surroundings, including the parents of Kylie and Danni Minogue and the British father of future Wolverine, Hugh Jackman.

Ten Pound Poms is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now. Watch a trailer below.