Immigration the end of the white australia policy
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Immigration: The End of the White Australia Policy. Dr Gwenda Tavan Politics Program, La Trobe University 25 July 2014. 1. Various social and political pressures brought about the end of White Australia. Changing attitudes and ideas about race and racism after World War II

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Immigration: The End of the White Australia Policy

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Immigration the end of the white australia policy

Immigration: The End of the White Australia Policy

Dr Gwenda Tavan

Politics Program,

La Trobe University

25 July 2014


1 various social and political pressures brought about the end of white australia

1. Various social and political pressures brought about the end of White Australia

  • Changing attitudes and ideas about race and racism after World War II

  • Changing foreign policy concerns and pressures

  • International opinion

  • Domestic pressure


2 end of white australia policy policies and processes

2. End of White Australia policy: policies and processes

  • Gradual, incremental change over time

  • Key policy changes occurred in 1960s and 1970s

  • 1964 changes to ‘mixed race’ policy

  • 1966 Opperman/Holt reforms expanded entry to well qualified, contribution to Australia; qualification for citizenship after 5 years

  • 1973 Whitlam officially ended White Australia


Q why so slow

Q. Why so slow?

Answer: Politics!

  • Gradual, incremental change reflected political interests and ideological preferences of major parties and governments; variety of interests that have to be balanced inc. trade unions, business, RSL

  • BUT: policy lagged behind public opinion by mid 1960s

  • Evidence of timidity and conservatism of governments till that time (Menzies and Calwell)


3 responsibility for final phase of policy is contested

3. Responsibility for final phase of policy is contested

Who ended White Australia?

  • Holt Liberal government 1966?

  • Whitlam Labor government 1973 or 1975?

  • Fraser Liberal government in late 1970s with arrival of Vietnamese refugees?

  • (strong hints of our party-centric view of national history)


4 the story is personal and political

4. The story is personal and political

  • Strong human interest aspect to the story of White Australia

  • Several controversial cases

  • Jan Allen case 1970-72

  • Nancy Prasad case 1962-1976


5 the story has contemporary relevance

5. The story has contemporary relevance

Lessons of White Australia:

  • The difficulties of governing in liberal democracies (balancing interests),

  • The capacity for conservative societies to achieve positive social and political change

  • The importance of people power

  • How global forces impact on Australia

  • Insights into contemporary immigration dilemmas (asylum-seekers, racism)

  • Lessons from the past on what we have done well and how to do things better!


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