Of the many names for Australia, the ‘promised land’ often stands out. This phrase stands for all advanced states, but the Land Down Under is something special. It can offer a high standard and quality life thanks to a combination of its stable economy, climate, and way of living.
But what makes this country unique is the openness to strangers. Australians (and all those who declare themselves so) are hospitable and open to foreigners who settle here. Here you will find tolerance, the cosmopolitan atmosphere, and cultural influence from all over the world. You will hear and see people of all races in the streets.
Most people these days didn’t even hear of White Australia Policy. Although not a very representative example of good practice, this system is a significant part of Australian history. Known as the Immigration Restriction Act, this law contributed to the fact that the Anglo-Saxon population predominated on the smallest continent.
In the year 1901, the early federation proclaimed a White Australia Policy. Back then, the British Monarchy wasn’t quite open to people from other cultures. People of non-European origin were undesirable in the Land Down Under. The government didn’t hide that.
Officially, the Immigration Act referred only to the migration of Europeans. British peoples had all the privileges, while the rest were somewhat restricted. But the reality was different. These laws weren’t favorable to the locals either. These were the Aboriginal tribes that inhabited Australia for over 40 millennia. To find out more about Aboriginals here’s the dreamtime story.
The newly-established government couldn’t just make Aborigines disappear. But they made their number drop. The authorities excluded these people from ‘white’ society, which was considered superior. They imposed assimilation on those of mixed origin and expelled full-blooded locals to the reserves.
Good Intention, Poor Realization
The White Australia Policy dealt with issues about the settlers in Australia’s outlying areas. These statements were designed to protect local interest and communal welfare. They had a significant social and economic impact upon the lives of those who already lived or just came to the Land Down Under.
Many of these policies were designed to help the settlers of British origin find work. It also encouraged the creation of local industries to lift the economy out of the agricultural fields. These were attempts to keep a high social and economic standard. The authorities felt that non-European races simply didn’t belong there, nor could they contribute to Australia’s betterment and progress.
Hard Times for Non-White Settlers
By the time the Immigration Act was passed, many races already lived on the smallest continent. Most of them settled here during the gold rush era. Many of them were full members of the community and had properties and businesses. After the White Australia Policy became full-fledged, most non-white people were deported without too much questioning.
Those who stayed were subjected to strict controls. If they travelled abroad, to do business or visit family, they would need many documents that would allow them to return. And they had to undergo a dictation test. That was not the case with Australians of British descent.
The first draft of the Immigration Act was quite harsh. After criticism, the authorities decided to make some changes. That move should make them less racist. So they introduced a dictation test of about 50 words as the norm. Anyone who fails it has to leave or can’t enter Australia. And it wasn’t easy to pass, given that the officials made it so.
The test was not standardized, but in a language that the authorities wanted. For example, the Greeks did a dictation test in Dutch. Those who spoke several languages needed to know almost extinct Gaelic dialect to pass it. Although unethical, this practice, with more or fewer changes, endured until the early 1960s. Then the authorities finally decided to loosen it.
World War II Brought Relaxation
The start of World War II was a chance for Australia to oppose Japan, whose occupation it had always feared. During the war, Indigenous Australians were on the front lines. That happened as a logical consequence of the White Australia Policy. Racism was the focus in those years, giving these people the wind in their backs to fight for their rights.
The end of World War II brought a drop in the influx of settlers. After the advent of peacetime, Australia relaxed the strict measures to help people damaged by the war. People from overseas countries began to arrive in droves to settle in Australia, feeling more welcome than ever.
After all, immigrants didn’t need to have permanent residence. They could leave and return as often as they wished. Still, this relaxation in the White Australia policy didn’t impact the government’s handling of national identity. White people still had a priority.
Legal End of White Policy
The more or less racist practice in the form of the White Australia Policy was finally abolished in 1973. During the two decades before it, specific laws were changed and measures relaxed. Gradually, business people, workers, and students of non-European descent were allowed to enter. There was a procedure that checked the skill of settlers and how they could benefit Australia.
In the meantime, immigrants are allowed to get citizenship after a certain period. Over the years, it has become shorter and shorter, until it was finally equated with procedures for Europeans in 1973. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam has merits for the abolition of the White Australia Policy. Also, he accepted other reforms significant to the development of a modern, multicultural Australia.
Visit the following page to learn more about reforms that changed the Land Down Under:
Currently, over 25 million people live in Australia. A significant percentage of these are highly-skilled workers of mixed or non-white origin. Many of them (or their ancestries) came to this country to build a new life, even under the Immigration Act. The White Policy was not a quite bright example. But modern immigration laws are made to help people live and work in Australia.