White Australia Policy

In: Historical Events

Submitted By stalwart
Words 300
Pages 2
The Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (White Australia Policy) was one of the world's oddest race-based government policies in that much of the impetus for it came from white men who liked and respected non-white races to the point they felt inferior by comparison. In addition, many of the opponents of the policy said extremely racist things when arguing for its abolition.

Reflecting the nuanced psychological issues associated with it, the Act instructed migration officials to use a dictation test that allowed non-whites to be excluded without publicly acknowledging that they were being targeted for exclusion. In other words, it was widely understood to be an Act designed to exclude non-whites but officially it wasn’t.

The reluctance to officially recognise the Immigration Restriction Act as a policy to exclude non-whites could be partly explained as flowing from the popularity of non-whites in Australia for much of the 19th century. Ironically, this could be seen as a legacy of Australia's penal foundations. Specifically, in 1820, nearly 80 per cent of the colonial population was a Convict, Emancipist or of Convict descent. As a consequence, the majority of the population were second class-citizens and the exclusive free settlers were the disliked minority. Race was insignificant compared to the stigma of criminality and the majority of the population shared that stigma together. An English newspaper of the time wrote:

"Historically, the greatest rift has been between the "exclusives" and the "emancipists". The first group believe that anyone who has come to the colony in penal servitude is never capable of complete redemption. These people, who tend to be among the wealthy landowners, thus see themselves as a superior class. For their part, the emancipists, who are all ex-convicts, are concerned with equality of human…...

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