About Us

Our history

On 1 July 2015 the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) was integrated with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) and the Australian Border Force was established.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service was formally disestablished on this date; however, its functions and services continue to be performed by the Department, and within it, the Australian Border Force.

Our integrated department provides us with the opportunity to leverage our combined experience and capabilities to better tackle the challenges facing Australia's border. See our strategy documents at Departmental reports and strategies.

Each organisation has its own proud history, as outlined below.

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service had a long and proud history, with more than 114 years of service to the Australian community.

Beginning in 1901 as the Department of Trade and Customs, we supported the economic prosperity of Australia by being at the forefront of establishing international standards for customs and trade functions.

We worked with the community, the Australian Government, industry, travellers and other government agencies to protect Australia's borders and we have done so across air, land and sea.

We have preserved the strength and history of our customs and trade function.

A full history of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service is available on the Customs history site.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) has a long history and celebrated its 70th anniversary in June 2015.

The Department of Immigration, as it was initially called, was established by Ben Chifley, Australia's 16th prime minister, on 13 July 1945. At that time, Australia had a population of some seven million people and was just emerging from World War II. The new Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell promoted the concept 'populate or perish'.

The new Department took over all the functions of the immigration branch of the Department of the Interior. With many immigration branch personnel still on active service, the Department began with just 24 officers—six in Canberra, six in Melbourne and 12 in London.

In his first ministerial statement to the Federal Parliament on 2 August 1945, Mr Calwell said:
'If Australians have learned one lesson from the Pacific War, it is surely that we cannot continue to hold our island continent for ourselves and our dependants, unless we greatly increase our numbers'.

Since its establishment, the Department has facilitated the permanent entry of more than seven million people from around the globe to form one of the world’s most linguistically, culturally and religiously diverse nations. This includes more than 800 000 refugees under humanitarian programmes. Today, almost half the population of Australia has direct or indirect familial links to another country.

During a commemorative conference, Customs and Immigration: past reflections and future directions, held on 26 June 2015, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Peter Dutton MP and the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Michael Pezzullo, launched a historical publication to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Immigration. A History of the Department of Immigration – Managing Migration to Australia (4.2MB PDF) provides a brief history of the Department including key events, highlights and challenges relating to immigration to Australia and the people who worked for the Department.