During World War I, for security reasons the Australian Government pursued a comprehensive internment policy against enemy aliens living in Australia.
Initially only those born in countries at war with Australia were classed as enemy aliens, but later this was expanded to include people of enemy nations who were naturalised British subjects, Australian-born descendants of migrants born in enemy nations and others who were thought to pose a threat to Australia's security.
Australia interned almost 7000 people during World War I, of whom about 4500 were enemy aliens and British nationals of German ancestry already resident in Australia.
- National Archives of Australia
By the end of the war most of the remaining internees had been moved into a large camp at Holsworthy near Liverpool, NSW. As part of their record-keeping the military photographed internees, assigned them a number, recorded their names and stored this minimal identifying information in giant books.
One of these books is kept on display at the National Archives in Canberra, open to a page containing only rows of nearly identical portraits. It is truly striking to behold these people, reduced to numbers and names, shorn of context.
The Aliens project aims to restore some of the identity and context missing from the 'Aliens book' by placing internment artifacts where they originated - with the internees.