The White Australia Policy

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The White Australia Policy (WAP) was a policy that was introduced in 1901 by the newly federated government. It was officially known as the Immigration Restrictions Act 1901 and the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901. These policies were put in place to keep Australia white for racial issues, economic issues and for the preservation of democratic freedom. In order for the WAP to work, a “Dictation Test” was put in place that would monitor who was allowed into the country such as undesirables including Asians and coloured immigrants. This policy was very racist although it was a common attitude of the time and was accepted and supported.

The Immigration Restrictions Act 1901 and the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 were both policies that restricted people from entering the country. Before federation, politicians argued about who should be able to enter and settle in Australia. Two points talked about was that Australia needed to stay “racially pure” and preferably British, and that a high-standard of living had to be maintained. This meant that cheap and non-white labour must be excluded.

Racial Issues played a major role in the WAP. The Chinese were a very big target for racial antagonism as they had different appearances and customs. Even though many were skilful and honest, they were victimised and attacked and until 1973 the WAP was always aimed directly at them. Aboriginal people were also a target for racial antagonism as they have always been treated badly. Under the WAP, Aborigines weren’t considered to be Australian citizens, couldn’t vote and they weren’t counted in the census. This attitude to the Indigenous Australians didn’t change for another fifty years when assimilation began, although that attempt failed and made things worse.

Economic Issues also had a part in the WAP as coloured immigrants were entering Australia for labour purposes. This use of coloured labour took work from people already living in Australia as they would work for...
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