Though in common use, the term "Ten Pound Pom" is inaccurate, as the scheme was not limited to migrants from the United Kingdom the usual meaning of "pom". In fact, most British subjects were eligible and, at the time, that included not only those from Great Britain , but also residents of British colonies such as Malta and Cyprus. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland born before 1949 were eligible as they too were British citizens.
Created as part of the "Populate or Perish" policy, the scheme was designed to substantially increase the population of Australia and to supply workers for the country's booming industries. In return for subsidising the cost of travelling to Australia — adult migrants were only charged £10 for the fare, hence the name, and children were allowed to travel for free — the Government promised employment prospects, housing and a generally more optimistic lifestyle. However, on arrival, migrants were placed in basic hostels and the expected job opportunities were not always readily available.
Assisted migrants were generally obliged to remain in Australia for two years after arrival, or alternatively refund the cost of their assisted passage. If they chose to travel back to Britain, the cost of the journey was at least £120, a large sum in those days and one that most could not afford. It was also possible for many British persons to migrate to Australia on a non-assisted basis before the early 1970s, though most travelled as Ten Pounders. This was part of the wider White Australia Policy.
Prior to 1 December 1973, migrants to Australia from Commonwealth countries were eligible to apply for Australian citizenship after one year's residence in Australia. In 1973 the residence requirement was extended to three years, reduced to two years in November 1984. However, relatively few British migrants — compared to other postwar arrivals, such as Italians, Greeks and Turks — took up Australian citizenship. Consequently, many lost their Australian resident status later on, usually through leaving Australia.
Ten Pound Poms was voted Australian documentary of the year 2007 by the Sydney Morning Herald