The Snowy Mountain Project
The face of Australia changed after World War II. The war had exposed the weakness of the small nation, and the government began a concerted effort to recruit new immigrants with the slogan "populate or perish."
Nearly two million "New Australians" came to Australia between 1946 and 1970, and many were refugees from war-torn Europe. The Australian government offered subsidized passage for many of the immigrants, the majority of whom were from Greece and Italy, joined by a mixture of others from the Baltics, Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, and Yugoslavia. The government's willingness to accept non-English speaking immigrants was a marked change from the previous 50 years, which had been characterized by an openly xenophobic "White Australia" policy.
The influx of immigrants provided the pool of willing laborers necessary to carry out the massive amount of work required to redirect the energies of the Snowy River. The Snowy River was a large, swift-moving river that flowed downhill from the Australian Alps to the Pacific Ocean. It took 100,000 laborers to harness the energies of the river. The work began in 1949 and lasted for 25 years, with much of the manual labor supplied by the new immigrants. They shoveled, shifted, and dug together, building 16 major dams, seven power plants, and more than 200 kilometers of tunnels and aqueducts. The hardship and difficult manual labor produced one of the 20th century's largest works of engineering and also forged a new sense of a multi-cultural Australian identity.