Flucht in die "Südsee"?
Österreichische Migration nach Neuseeland und Ozeanien

Escape to the "Southern Seas?"
Austrian Migration to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands

General Information

Since the first reports of European sailors about the Pacific islands, the dream about a careless life under palm trees and with nice and friendly islanders is deeply grounded within European minds. The reports of Georg Forster and following researchers, adventurers and travellers caused massive interest in the German speaking countries. The first journey of the Austrian navy ship Novara from 1857 to 1859 and the stories about the stops that were regularly published in the in the Austrian newspapers just fuelled the enthusiasm about foreign countries, especially about the Pacific islands such as New Zealand, Tahiti, the Solomon Islands and Australia. These enthusiastically reports woke the longing for these places and made real and dreamt journeys to this region possible for centuries. The mass-media of the 20th century showed heroic stories of departure and outburst from conventions of the westerly society, which historical migration into this region really did happen and still happens is mostly undiscovered or at least unknown to the majority of people in the Western world. And that makes it possible that the dreams about the “South Seas” can still exist unharmed from experiences and reality. This research project likes to start here and tries to investigate and further on to communicate life stories and life worlds of Austrian migrants in Oceania.


Migration is not a phenomenon of the 20th or 21st century but did always bring troubles and chances for a new start, for cultural exchange and stimulation of numbed social structures. Many people did immigrate into Austria during the history, but as many did leave Austria. Whereas research projects and the mass-media nowadays migration mainly examines under the point of view of immigration into Austria, this certain project wants to take a closer look at the emigration from Austria. As in the past such studies documented the stream of overseas-immigrants, mostly into the USA, the other regions are mostly not covered by research studies. With Oceania, as a region that is very marginal noticed, it seems possible to accomplish a more extensive and deeper analysis about “push and pull” factors, about the real characteristic of migration, about the living conditions in the host countries, about the consequences of the interaction between the migrants and the locals and about the consequences of re-immigration into Austria. The results of the project significant for one part for the historical living situation in Austria and the migration to New Zealand and Oceania, on the other hand they reach out over a certain time and situation and light those factors who always made migration possible and who favoured this region in particular, which appeared and still does to be the destination of all dreams, which was and is actually rather unpropitious for permanent settlement because of its naturally possibilities and political conditions.


The following project wants to light a region which has historical and recent bonds with Austria which has interacting relations and which is important to look at. Because of the still small amount of data a fundamental research is important to initiate and prepare new research.

The extensive question, with which the project will deal, is the migration of Austrians to New Zealand and Oceania. Oceania includes the Pacific nation-states of Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia as well as New Zealand (which as Polynesian island is implicitly a part of Oceania anyway). Australia will be only mentioned as far as older sources do not differ within the region and so the data for Australia must be considered, still the project won’t conduct any original research.

Periods of Research

The starting point of migration – Austria – will grasp different large areas in the three covered periods. Because of the relatively small number of migrants in the first period (1857 to 1913) the enlargement of the area, not only the borders of the recent Austria but the borders of the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, seems reasonable. Still the focus will be on the Austrian mainland, Vienna and the eastern provinces. For the two other covered periods the area within the modern Austrian borders will be dealt with.

  1. 1857-1913: The reports of the travels of James Cook in the 18th century about Oceania and Australia did reach Austria but with the journey of the Austrian navy ship Novara the attention for this region grew immensely the reason why this project starts its first period of research with this year (1857). The end is marked with 1913 since the disorders of the First World War do not permit any reliable data materials for migration.
  2. 1929-1950: The begin of the second period of research with the year 1929 marks the year of the world economy crisis, flows over the time of the Nazi regime until 1950 when a considerable number of migrants returned to Austria.
  3. 1984-2004: As third period, the last 20 years will be looked at to give the recent migration an adequate temporal frame. It is here that the best conditions for interviews can be found still, the qualitative method will be more important than the quantitative one.


Since there is only very little research data fort he period between 1857 and 1913 the project has to start with fundamental research for primary sources in archives and printed mass-media of this time to collect the data that is needed to answer the research issues about migration to New Zealand and Oceania for this period. Next to the extensive research in the existing literature, including articles in compilations, the enquiries of material in archives will be started. Although articles in mass media with contributed to the images of the “Southern Seas” will be considered. For the younger periods the evaluation of the existing literature (primary sources) with ethno-historical methods plus interviews with still living migrants (oral history) supplement each other and do bring some new insights.

Zuletzt aktualisiert: Tuesday, 25-Sep-2007 17:53:55 CEST