White Australia policy

Historical racial policies in Australia / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The White Australia policy is a term encapsulating a set of historical policies that aimed to forbid people of non-European ethnic origin, especially Asians (primarily Chinese) and Pacific Islanders, from immigrating to Australia, starting in 1901. Governments progressively dismantled such policies between 1949 and 1973.[3]

The Australian Natives' Association, comprising Australian-born whites, produced this badge in 1911. Prime Minister Edmund Barton was a member of the Association.[1] The badge shows the use of the slogan "White Australia" at that time.[2]

Competition in the gold fields between European and Chinese miners, and labour union opposition to the importation of Pacific Islanders (primarily South Sea Islanders) into the sugar plantations of Queensland, reinforced demands to eliminate or minimize low-wage immigration from Asia and the Pacific Islands. From the 1850s colonial governments imposed restrictions on family members joining Chinese miners already in Australia. The colonial authorities levied a special tax on Chinese immigrants and from which other immigrants were exempted. Towards the end of the 19th century, labour unions pushed to stop Chinese immigrants working in the furniture and market garden industries.[4]

Soon after Australia became a federation in January 1901, the federal government of Edmund Barton passed the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901; this was drafted by Alfred Deakin, who would eventually become Australia's second Prime Minister. The passage of this bill marked the commencement of the White Australia Policy as Australian federal government policy. Subsequent acts further strengthened the policy up to the start of World War II.[5] These policies effectively gave British migrants preference over all others through the first four decades of the 20th century. During World War II, Prime Minister John Curtin reinforced the policy, saying "This country shall remain forever the home of the descendants of those people who came here in peace in order to establish in the South Seas an outpost of the British race."[3]

Successive governments dismantled the policy in stages after the conclusion of World War II. The Menzies and Holt Governments (1949–1967) began allowing non-British Europeans to immigrate to Australia, and the Whitlam Government passed laws to ensure that race would be totally disregarded as a component for immigration to Australia in 1973. In 1975, the Whitlam Government passed the Racial Discrimination Act, which made racially-based selection criteria unlawful. In the decades since, Australia has maintained large-scale multi-ethnic immigration. As of 2018, Australia's migration program allows people from any country to apply to immigrate to Australia, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, or language, provided that they meet the criteria set out in law.[3] Prior to 2011, the United Kingdom was the largest source country for immigration to Australia but, since then, China and India have provided the highest number of permanent migrants.[6] The National Museum of Australia describe the White Australia policy as openly racist, stating that it "existed because many white Australians feared that non-white immigrants would threaten Australian society."[7]