Racism in Australia Essay

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Most of the Australians in the world today enjoy a multicultural and multiethnic society. However, just like the United States, Australia was a racist country in the past. From the year 1901 to the mid-1970s, immigration to Australia was under restriction to exclusively the whites. The legislation of limiting immigration to the whites was unofficial but was commonly known as the White Australian Policy. As Stanley indicates, the policy aimed at giving preferential treatment to the British (191).

It is essential to understand the fact that whitewashing of Australia did not commence during the creation of the country as a British Commonwealth in the year 1901. At the time, the population of Australia was 3.8 million and 97 percent of the population comprised of the white people (Stanley 191). The white dominated the people of the country by over 95 percent until the 1970s (Stanley 191). The primary goal of the white policy was to create the white utopia. This paper, therefore, is an argumentative essay that focuses on Australia and the racist ideas that dominated the nation in the early 20th century.

How British colonies were established in Australia

Australians preferred the British immigration as compared to that of the non-white population. The attitude towards the people of color led to the establishment of British colonies in Australia. Captain James Cook sailed for years in search of a perfect territory. Australia was an ideal colony for Britain since it was untouched and the British would occupy the nation without any opposition. Cook noticed the existence of native populations in Australia, who proved to be docile and did not intend to resist the British settlers. Such factors led to the increased immigration of the British colonies in Australia.

The British had a significant impact in Australia after their arrival in the country in 1877. One of the essential influences includes the changed features of the Australian flags done by the British (Putnis 29). The British models developed the legal and political systems of Australia by providing the country with a national language. In addition to that, the British had a widespread influence on Australia’s culture through their domination in society development (Putnis 35). At the time, most of the citizens born in Australia lived in British settlements. The British culture dominated in Australia especially the modes of food, entertainment, fashion, social values and the sporting culture among others. The British settlements helped Australia to experience financial and economic growth. Moreover, the settlers established a government system that oversaw the administrative affairs of the country. Britain influenced the nation mainly since Australia was an independent country.

Life in Australia in the 20th Century

The White Australia Policy influenced by the overwhelming British domination and the way Australians treated the indigenous people in the early 20th century shows that Australia was a racist country (Laing 219). Australians held the belief that the whites were better people as compared to individuals from other races. The British settlers and colonies influenced the ideas that the non-white populations are inferior. The non-whites populations were considered inferior and unequal. With this in mind, one can see that the White Australia Policy was racist. The treatment of the non-white communities in the country was appalling. The general population treated the indigenous communities as inferior beings as if they were not from the human origin.

Further, Australia gained federation in the early 20th century (Laing 219). The Federation of the country resulted from a variety of reasons. However, one of the essential factors that pushed for federation and united the country was the fact that federation would help in keeping out individuals from different races, as it was the case for other countries initially. Political parties, leading politicians and newspapers had one aim, which was to keep out indigenous populations in Australia, which is one of the reasons showing that Australia was a racist society. Laing indicates that in a country, the famous individuals are usually those who express the thoughts and beliefs of the general population (219). In the year 1907, a leading newspaper in Australia (the Bulletin) changed its banner to ‘Australia for the white man’ (Putnis 30). The slogan helped in affirming the fact that Australia was for the white man and people from different races were not welcome to settle in the nation.

The Australian society in the early 20th century had an immense distrust of the indigenous populations. People living in the country feared that accepting the immigration of the indigenous people would lead to the presence of different individuals willing to work for minimal payment in poor working conditions, which would lead to deterioration of the country’s economic progress. Fear of economic decline had a role to play in enhancing hostility towards the people from other races (Stratton 19). Moreover, before the Federation of Australia, the country had developed both distrust and hatred towards the indigenous populations particularly the Asians (McLean 22).

The indigenous population in Australia in the early 20th century worked as slaves and had to give up their land to the British immigrants who were considered the rightful owners. The situation remained the same in Australia with most of its occupants being white until the referendum that took place in the year 1967. Currently, most of the Australians have no idea that their country harbored slaves in the past. Besides, historians rarely talk about the racist situation in Australia, and one could refer to the case as the ‘indentured servitude.’ With this in mind, one can see that Australia was a white utopia in the early twentieth century.

Australia as a model country

Australia may be a utopia country in the early 20th century. However, one can consider Australia a model country since other nations copied most of the laws implemented by the government (Diesendorf 80). Immigration is vital since it has played a significant role in building the Australian society. After the referendum in 1967 that led to the abolishment of laws inhibiting the non-white immigrants from moving into the country, Australia has witnessed intensive immigration with over 5 million immigrants from different nations. The nation, therefore, has a tremendous cultural diversity, which most of the states have tried to emulate. In addition to that, a culture of multiculturalism has emerged in Australia leading to the rise of particular institutions (Diesendorf 81). Asides from that, one can consider Australia a model country since most countries adopted the White Australia Policy following the economic prosperity that resulted in the country after the intensive immigration of the British. From this, one can see that Australia was a model country in the early twentieth century in different ways regardless of the rise of the white utopia.


Lastly, this paper focuses on the white utopia that was prevalent in the early twentieth century. At the time, Australia was a new country but comprised of several British settlers. In the 18th and 19th century, British colonists led by Captain Cook sought to find the best colony. In their search, they thought that Australia would be the perfect place to build up their settlements since it was a new state and the indigenous people already in the nation had no intentions of resisting. The British brought in ideas and several developments in Australia that the local people embraced significantly. Throughout the early years of the twentieth century, Australia banned the immigration of the non-white population, which made the country racist. However, in the mid-1970s, Australia amended its laws allowing for migration of people from different nations, which led to economic prosperity. Other countries emulated the laws making it a model country.

Works Cited

Diesendorf, Mark. “A Critique of the Australian Government’s Greenhouse Policies.” Climate Change in the South Pacific: Impacts and Responses in Australia, New Zealand, and Small Island States, edited by Alexander Gillespie and William CG Burns, Springer Science & Business Media, 2006, pp.79–93.

Laing, Kate. “‘The White Australia Nettle’: Women’s Internationalism, Peace, and the White Australia Policy in the Interwar Years.” History Australia, vol. 14, no. 2, 2017, pp.218–236. doi:10.1080/14490854.2017.131973

McLean, Ian W. Why Australia Prospered : The Shifting Sources of Economic Growth. Princeton University Press, 2013. The Princeton Economic History of the Western World. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=479003&site=ehost-live.

Putnis, Peter. “Australia in the British Press.” Media Information Australia, vol. 35, no. 1, 2009, pp.28–35. doi: 10.1177/1329878x8503500106

Stanley, Timothy. “Utopia and the Public Sphere.” Religion after Secularization in Australia, edited by Timothy Stanley, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp.191-210.

Stratton, Jon. Uncertain Lives : Culture, Race and Neoliberalism in Australia. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=532278&site=ehost-live.

November 24, 2023
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