The Chief Tool of the “White Australian Policy” was the Immigration Restriction Act, 1901


The white Australian policy was widely accepted and embraced by Australians. The policy was set in motion as result of the initiation of Immigration Restriction Bill of 1901. Majority of white Australians were in the view that the bill was long overdue. The Australian was persuaded that their race was superior and that the influx of non- white workers will jeopardize their job standing thus need for Immigration Restriction Bill (London, 1970). The policy was a previous undertaken by Australian government of the time to favor immigrants from certain parts of the world.

The initial legislation to be supported by the Australian government was the Immigration Restriction Act, commonly known as The Australian Policy (Head, 2011). The motive of the legislation was to encourage homogenous society comparable to the then present day Britain. Under this policy, only the whites (Europeans) were eligible to migrate to Australia. The White policy was an egalitarian policy reflecting the perception of the Australians (Head, 2011). Hence, the Immigration Restriction Act was a major ingredient shaping the White Australia’s Policy.

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Immigration Restriction Bill of 1901

Australian government with the aim of restricting or limiting the number of non-white migrant to the country passed the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 (London, 1970). It formed a background to the establishment of the White Australia Policy. It also authorized deportation of illegal immigrants.

It offered officers ranging powers of preventing individual’s entry in the country. Such restriction was simplified through issuing of dictation test. However, the act had some exemptions. The members of the Royal Navy and British Army, foreign diplomats and close family members of permitted immigrants were granted exemptions. Prospective immigrants, under the act, were required to apply for Exemption Certificate, which will grant their stay for a given period(London, 1970). Overtime, various amendments were made on the act. Initially the dictation test was administered within the first year of a person entry in Australia, but was extended for five years of residence in 1932(London, 1970).

Moreover, the official administering the test were allowed to avail the test several times and in an individual language. In addition, in 1958, the Immigration Act was replaced with the Migration Act, which erased the dictation test.


Non- whites were industrious in job assignments in the country. For example, the Chinese were good in all types of manual work. Hence, their industrious nature was of no interests to their whites counterparts in the mining sector. According to Willard the acts of violence experienced in some places such as the Buckland River, victoria and New South Wales is an example of cruelty of Immigration Restriction Act (1967).

To tame their influence, the administration of these colonies executed restrictions aimed at curbing their migration. Non- whites in these colonies were denied access to permanent residency status and were only allowed to work in less paying jobs under unfavorable working conditions (Willard, 1967)

Race Composition in Australia

Australia had a various ethnicities residing in the country for quite some time. Hence, London(1970) argues that the Australians reaction to these new immigrants was hostile. They discriminated them against their color, opportunistic and as a result,more hostility towards them. They had an assumption that “white skin” was superior to any other skin color.

Hence, the Immigration Restriction Actwas aimed at taming non-white immigrants to the country.This act was designated as legislation “to impose certain restriction on immigration and grant exclusion from the commonwealth of illegal immigrants (Australia Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 2011). According to Clawson (2001), the act placed stringent conditions for immigrants to Australia. Hence, immigrants suspected of being insane or “idiots”, likely to be liability to charitable organizations or public institutions, prostitutes or pimps, criminals, suffering from contagiousor infectious illness, of questionable character and menial job seekers was restricted by the Immigration Restriction Act.

Dictation Test

Dictation test, which was part of the Immigration Restriction Act, had negative impact on non-white dissidents too. The test was aimed at excluding non-white immigrants by compelling them to pass a fifty word written testmark (Clawson, 2001). Often, a dictation test was administered in a language (European language) which was unfamiliar to most candidates. Thepolicy exempted most immigrants from European countries.

The dictation test was administeredwith hindsight, and its main intention was to deport non –whites or restrict entry of non-whites to Australia.

Shipping Companies

Ships bound to Australian coast were thoroughlysearched; hence, when in possession of illegal immigrants, the ship company was heavily fined orconfiscated, or prevented in the future entry in Australia. The major intention was, not only to restrict new immigrant arrivals,but also to exclude immigrants already residing in Australia

Permits and Passports

The Immigration Restriction Act also showed similar bias in terms of issuance of work permits and granting of residual status in Australia (Rowntree and Price, 2000). Europeans were mostly favored.

Europeans granted entry in the country for business and job objectives and those who had lived in the country for more than 15 years were exempted from renewing their permits on a periodical basis, hence, as such, they achieved automatic residence status. On the other hand, other immigrants such as the wives of Australian service members, of Japanese origin were granted admission with a permit valid and renewable after for years (Rowntree and Price, 2000). For other non-whites, issuance of permits and passports was not a guarantee, bias, intimidation and other forms of mistreatment by issuing authorities was common.Hence, this condition made them to have illegal status in Australia.


The white Australian policy had a far-reaching social impact on the Australian society. It profiled discrimination against people belonging to non-white races. However, the most notable ingredient of the Act was the Immigration Restriction Act, which through its contents brought about more bias in its administration.


Australia Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. 2011. Abolition of the White Australia Policy and Key Facts in Immigration.

Available at [Accessed 13th August 2011] Clawson. N.

, 2001. World Regional Geography: A Developmental Approach. Prentice Hall, New Jersey Head, M., 2011.

”The New ‘White Australia’ Policy” .Available at [Accessed 13th August 2011] London, H., I., (1970).

Non-white Immigration and the “White Australia” Policy. New York University Press, New York Rowntree, L., & Price, W., 2000. Diversity amid Globalization.

Prentice Hall, New Jersey Willard, M., 1967. History of the White Australia Policy to 1920. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne


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