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White Australian Policy Essay

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Updated: Jan 11th, 2020


Various countries of the world are endowed in terms of resources both natural and manmade. For this reason, there are countries that tend to be better off economically than others. This has seen many people migrate to other countries in search of greener pastures in terms of better employment opportunities and investment as opportunities. Due to the high number of foreign immigrants that countries receive, sometimes countries would come up with policies which would restrict the number of immigrants coming into the country.

Australia at one time came up with such a policy which came to be referred to as the White Australian Policy. Under this policy those immigrants who applied to come into Australia from certain regions of the world were given preference more than other immigrants. This discussion seeks to establish the reason why the Australian governments adopted this policy in the 20th century.

Background Information

The White Australian Policy was put in place by the Australian government in the 20th century. Specifically, the year 1901 saw the legislature pass an Act that came to be known as the Immigrations Restrictions Act. The provisions of this legislation restricted the immigration of people from certain regions of the world.

Further, this act provided that prohibited immigrants be deregistered from being members of the Common Wealth. Specifically, this Act restricted the immigration of all people who were considered to be of unbecoming or loathsome character, any person suffering from an infectious or contagious disease , insane persons as well as those who were likely to become a charge against any charitable or public organization.

Other persons who had been restricted from migrating into Australia were those who had any criminal records, prostitutes and any person who had been contracted to for purposes of manual labour in Australia. The main of this Act therefore was to prevent entry of people who were considered undesirable for the progress of the society in Australia. However even though the policy has since been abolished, many historians argue that Australians remain one of the largest racists groups in the world.

There was yet another restriction which required that applicants who wanted to migrate to Australia needed to pass a certain dictation test and those who did not pass were barred entry into Australia. One unfair aspect of this test is that it would more often be conducted in a language in which the applicant did not understand.

This made the likelihood of the applicant passing the test very minimal. This was a move that received great support from the bigger community in Australia. As a matter of fact, in the year 1919, the Prime Minister of Australia at the time is quoted as having said that the enactment and implementation of this legislation was one of the greatest achievements that Australia had.

Second World War

During the Second World War, there was a lot of migration as people moved in search of safe places to hide from the war. However, Australia was all the more keen to ensure that people from other countries and especially those who were prohibited by the Immigrations Restrictions Act were not allowed entry into the soil of Australia.

Despite the stringent measures that the Australian government had put in place, there are numerous refuges who were non white who gained entry into Australia. When the Second World War came to an end, some of the non-white immigrants who had entered Australia left on their own volition. However, some of the immigrants had since intermarried with Australians and therefore did not want to go back to their native countries.

This brought about a lot of friction between government officials and the non-white immigrants as the government considered these immigrants as having been illegal. The minister of immigration in Australians at the time, having read the mood of the non-white immigrants gave a notice of deportation to the immigrants.

This sparked heavy protest from the immigrants which later turned out to be violent (Willard, 1967. p.234). Due to these protests, the government officials loosened their measures and the non-white immigrants were allowed to stay. This marked the beginning of abolition of the White Australian Policy which was not only unfair but discriminatory as well.

Further Progress

In the year 1957, the Australian government further loosened its measures by allowing any non-European immigrant who had been in Australia for a period of 15 years or more to be granted Australian citizenship (Windshucttle, 2004, p.23).

This would later see the Australian government revise and amend the provisions of the Immigrations Restrictions Act which provided for a system that was simpler and made entry into Australia easy than it was previously. In addition, the dictation test which was one of the requirements for any applicant wishing to enter Australia was abolished.

Under the provisions of the revised Act any applicant wishing to enter Australia needed not give details of their race as was the case previously. Instead, other factors such as the ability for an immigrant to settle and integrate with the indigenous community and provide value to Australia in terms of their services were considered. The period within which a non-European immigrant could be granted citizenship of Australia was further reduced from fifteen years to five years.

Abolishment of the Policy

In the year 1966, the government of Australia decided to do away with the White Australian policy having acknowledged that it was highly discriminative. This saw the number of non-European immigrants rise considerably. By the year 1973, the government of Australia had resolved on eliminating race as factor for migration.

This was done by requiring that any immigrant to Australia, regardless of their origin be granted permanent citizenship of Austria after having stayed in Australia for a period of three years. Further, the government issued instructions to all posts overseas that race be totally and completely disregarded when considering applicants who would wish to immigrate to Australia.

The Australian government also made a ratification of all the international treaties and agreements that were in regard to race and immigration. The Whitlam government was very instrumental in ensuring that non-European immigrants were no longer discriminated against in their quest to gain entry into Australia. However, the same government came up with yet another policy which put a restriction on the general number of immigrants who would enter the country every year regardless of their race (Collins, 1962, p.34).

This meant that their efforts to abolish the White Australian policy did not bear much fruit since the number of immigrants whether non-European or otherwise into Australia did not go up as expected. It was not until the year 197 when Fraser came into office that the stringent measures were now lifted and there was an increased number of immigrants from various parts of the world with race no longer being a consideration of admission.

The Fraser government was committed into bringing immigration changes in Australia and in 1978, the government came up with anew framework which all the more ensured that no person would be denied entry into the soil of Australia based on their racial background. The government laid emphasis on attracting immigrants from other countries, not paying attention to their race but more importantly whether those people can bring any value to the Australia.

Current Status

Presently, Australia is one of the countries who immigrations laws are somewhat friendly (Collins, 1962, p.45). The issue of race has since been dropped and it is no longer a consideration that determined whether or not an applicant will be granted entry into Australia. Other factors that are not considered and are therefore not barriers to entry into Australia include religion, cultural background, religion, language and ethnicity.

By the year 2010, Australia was estimated to have a total population of 22.7 million people with more than a quarter of this number being non-European immigrants. This goes to show that Australia has embraced other races into their country and this has paid off because the economy of this country has continued to take an upward trend despite the global recession that has been experienced over time. Australian now views the social and cultural diversity that it has as a source of wealth and economic progress.


The issue if immigration is one that has remained contentious in many countries. This is because many countries would like as much as is possible to protect their culture, beliefs and practices and they argue allowing many people from outside may water down their culture. However Australia has proven over time that it is indeed possible to accommodate people from other cultures and races and still manage to maintain one’s culture. The White Australian Policy remains part of the Australian history mainly because it was highly discriminative.

We however get to understand that such discriminatory and stereotype kind of classifications does not help in nay way and especially for country that is seeking to grow. Growth in a society and especially economical and sociological cannot be achieved in isolation. A society cannot hope to thrive, develop or progress in isolation at the exclusion of other societies.

This is because there is no society that has got all the resources that it will require for development and there is always the need to engage other societies for combined efforts. Researches have shown that countries that allow immigration of people from other countries without having may restrictions have the advantage of fast economic growth due to the integration of various ideas and skills from different parts of the world.

Australia is a good example and especially to those countries where discrimination based on race or any other kind of affiliation is still rife. Countries and especially those that are classified as peripheral countries or third countries must give immigration a serious consideration if they hope to catch up with the affluent countries. It is only by lifting such barriers that notable economic development will be noted and the standards of life of its citizenry will be promoted.


Collins, T. (1962). The white Australia policy. New York: Australian Catholic Truth Society

Willard, M. (1967). History of the white Australia policy. London: Routledge.

Windshucttle, K. (2004). The white Australia Policy. New York: Mcleay Press.

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