Topic 6: Changing Rights and Freedoms Section B: Migrants

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Topic 6: Changing Rights and Freedoms


Section B: Migrants

  • The changing patterns of migration 1945–2000

  • The experiences of ONE of the following:

  • The role of ONE of the following in the history of post-WWII migration:

Snowy Mountains Scheme

1970s boat people



I decided to go as a ‘Ten Pound Pom’. That meant that for the princely sum of ten pounds I had my fare paid by the Governmenttomorrowsaustralians_wideweb__430x311.jpg

There was a lot of paperwork and the Australian Department of Immigration even wrote to the local priest in my village asking him to give a guarantee that I was not already married in Greece. They also did a police check to see if I was a criminal or a communist!

Today, four out of every ten people in New South Wales are either migrants, or the children of migrants. Most would have arrived in the decades immediately after the Second World War when the Australian Government actively pursued a policy of ‘populate or perish’.

For 150 years following European settlement, government policies ensured that the majority of Australia’s immigrants were of European origin and preferably British. When the colonies federated in 1901, the first act of the new parliament was to pass the Immigration Restriction Act. By introducing a dictation test, this ensured that ‘undesirable’ non-European migrants were prohibited from entering Australia and preference was given to British migrants.

Only after World War Two and the near invasion by Japan did Australia look to the rest of Europe to ‘populate’ the empty countryside and build up an industrial work force. In 1945 Arthur Calwell was appointed the first Federal Government Immigration Minister and set about putting policies in train that would attract over 70,000 migrants a year. At most only half this number could be met from Britain. In 1947 the Australian Government reluctantly agreed to accept ‘Displaced Persons’, or refugees, from the war in Europe. Over the next five years nearly 171,000 – mainly from Poland, Yugoslavia and the Baltic States – arrived. When this source of migrants was exhausted, the Government signed formal agreements to sponsor migrants from a number of European countries including Germany, Italy, Greece and Malta.migrant hostel.bmp

Under these ‘assisted passage’ schemes, migrants were given temporary accommodation in exchange for guaranteeing to provide two years labour on government projects such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Almost 40 accommodation centres were established in New South Wales, often in old army barracks. Families were separated with husbands living in barracks close to their work and women and children staying behind in the migrant accommodation.

Conditions were, at best, basic. Other migrants arrived unassisted and lived – some in comfort, others not – with family and friends, and found work independently of the Government.

Between 1945 and 1975, Australia’s population almost doubled. Almost three million migrants arrived, half from Britain and half from other European countries. However it was not until the election of Gough Whitlam’s Federal Government in 1972 that the ‘White Australia’ policy was finally abandoned. The Immigration Minister, Al Grassby, declared in 1973 that ‘every relic of past ethnic or racial discrimination’ was to be abandoned and migrants welcomed from all countries. By the 1996 Census, the Australian population had reached 18 million including 5.6 million people who had immigrated from over 150 countries.sp_aaib058_16x20~immigrant-family-on-ellis-island-posters.jpg

Change over Time: 1945-2000

  • Aboriginal peoples regarded as the first migrants to Australia starting over 50,000 years ago.

  • 1788 – 1901 White British Settlement in Colonies: 1901 5.2% of the 3.9 million population were not Australian or British born with only 0.8% from Asia.

  • 1901 Federation Australian Nation Immigration Restriction Act: (referred to as the “white Australia policy”) with the “dictation test” used to almost eliminate “non white” immigration to Aust.

  • 1901 – 1945: Small number of mostly British & European migrants - 215,000 assisted British migrants arrived in 1920’s.

  • 1945 onwards Immigration of 2 million people mainly from Europe: Greece, Italy, Baltic States (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania), Malta and other European and Middle East countries - many were escaping after the war.

  • Nationality & Citizenship Act 1948: Recognised Australian Citizens and created the idea of a separate Australian Identity. Labor PM Chiffley became first citizen of Australia.

  • 1950’s British Subjects: could register to become Australian Citizens but non-British had to be formally granted citizenship & swear “Oath of Allegiance” (after living here for 15 years).

  • 1958: “Dictation Test” abolished.

  • 1966: Skilled immigrants from any country who could contribute to Australian life allowed entry of more non-Europeans.

  • 1973 Abolition of the Immigration Restriction Act: The end of use of race as a part of the selection for immigration allowed more Asian immigrants to come to Australia.

  • Australian Citizenship Act 1973: Labor Government changed the law so ALL non-Australian treated equally and forced to take “Oath of Allegiance” as part of the process of becoming Australian citizens.

  • 1975 End of Vietnam War (and Cambodia): Many refugees from South Vietnam (the USA supported part of Vietnam) and Cambodia (where control was in the hands of a fundamentalist dictatorship under leader Pol Pot) arrived. These people were brought to Australia on humanitarian grounds.

  • 1973: Whitlam Government abolishes immigration restriction by race. End of the “White Australia” policy. Quotas for countries introduced.

  • Boat People”: Most of the 120,000 refugees arrived in boats with nothing but what they could carry. Their boats were often unseaworthy and there are many stories of the dangers and hardships they faced.

  • Non Refugee Asian Immigrants: By the end of 1980’s 20% of Australian immigrants from Asia to encourage business opportunities.

  • 1987 Fitzgerald Report on Immigration: Recommended approximately 150,000 immigrants per year.

  • Howard Government 2007 “Citizenship Quiz”: People take a test prior to being allowed to become Australian citizens to prove their knowledge of Australia.

  • Other immigrants: Australia has also taken increasing numbers from Africa and the Middle East since 1970’s with recent increases from Africa. From July 2005 to June 2006 we took 132,000 immigrants from over 200 countries around the world. Most were born in the United Kingdom (17.7 per cent), New Zealand (14.4 per cent), China (8.0 per cent), India (8.6 per cent) and the Philippines (3.9 per cent). Source:

  • Australian Response to Asian Immigration and One Nation In the 1990’s: Debate centred on the changes to Australian society through Asian immigration and this prompted debate about the future of multiculturalism in Australia and this also saw the rise (and later demise) of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (“Australia for Australians”). Asian immigrants and their descendants make up 3.5% of our population but half our migrant intake in recent years has come from Asia. By 2004 federal election One Nation had lost all seats in parliament.

  • Future Immigration 21st Century: The ability of our fragile Australian environment to absorb more immigrants, the need for more skilled people in Australia and the problem of political refugees from countries in crisis is a major issue facing Australia in the 21st century.

  • Original Background of our Population today: 74% Anglo-Celtic; 19% European; 4.5% Asian; 2.5% indigenous & others.

The Impact of Immigration -

Economic: Immigration affects the demand side of Australia's economy through:

  • migrants' own spending (food, housing and leisure activities)

  • business expansion (investment to produce extra goods and services)

  • expansion of government services (health, education and welfare).

It also affects the supply side of the economy through:

  • labour, skills and capital introduced into Australia

  • new businesses developed by migrants

  • migrant contributions to technology

  • adding productive diversity through knowledge of international business markets.

Like all Australians, migrants pay taxes to, and receive benefits and goods and services from, government. Research shows that, overall, migrants contribute more in taxes than they consume in benefits and government goods and services. As a result migrants generate surpluses for government.

Population composition

Migration has had a very significant effect on Australia's population. At the end of World War II, Australia's population was just over 7 million, with around 90 per cent born in Australia.

At the time of the 2006 Census, Australia's population was 19.9 million, with nearly one in four people living in Australia born overseas. Some 45 per cent of all Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. Of those born overseas, the United Kingdom is the largest overseas-born group (23.5 percent), followed by New Zealand (8.8 percent), China (excluding SARs and Taiwan Province) (4.7 percent) and Italy (4.5 percent).
Population growth

Natural increase has been the main source of population growth over the past hundred years, contributing two-thirds of the increase in population between 1901 and 2001. Immigration has also been a significant contributor to Australia's population growth but has been more volatile. In 1993, for example, it contributed about 23.1 per cent to population growth while in 2008, it contributed 59.5 per cent.

Immigration's contribution to population growth is likely to increase during the next 30 years as the ageing of Australia's population leads to deaths increasingly catching up with births.
Culture & Sport

Major cities of Australia we can enjoy films, music, live entertainment, festivals of different nations and eat food from many cultures.


  1. Using your text book as your source of information answer the following questions:

  • What was the White Australia Policy and why was it introduced?

  • What was a ‘ten pound pom’?

  • What international events caused migrants come to Australia after WWII?

  • What is meant by assimilation?

  • What is multiculturalism?

  • What role did migrants play in the Snowy River Scheme?

  • What role did the boat people play in the history of migration?

  • Why did the One Nation party emerge and what was the impact of its views on society?

  1. Using your text book as your source of information, identify three significant ways that multiculturalism has influenced Australia.

  2. Explain in 150 words why the ‘Populate or Perish’ policy was adopted by Australia.

  3. Why was an agreement made with the International Refugee Organisation allowing European refugees to migrate to Australia?

  4. Why was the White Australia Policy abolished?

  5. Complete the questions in your text book on source material 8.2 (p.287) and 8.6 (p.290).

  6. Compose a 250 word response to: The rights and freedoms of migrants have changed during the 20th century. Describe one major change. What caused the change? What were the effects of the change?

  7. Choose one of the following and describe their experiences in a podcast or a power point or a slideshow:

  1. A migrant group such as the Italians or the Vietnamese

  2. Enemy aliens


  • Racism No Way – Migration timeline:

  • Timeline:

  • Migrant ship:

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