The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1970s
4 Assimilation Policy in Australia, 1890s–1962
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Assimilation Policy in Australia, 1890s–1962
In the post–Second World War period the Australian government adopted a mass migration programme, which brought large numbers of non-British settlers to its shore for the first time in its history. The “Australia” these migrants encountered when they arrived was very much a British society and an integral part of a wider British world. The White Australia policy was also a crucial capillary of this British race patriotism. Consequently, these new non-British migrants were expected to assimilate into this white, British society immediately and become near identical to Anglo-Celtic Australians. However, in the early 1960s the first signs that Australia’s Britishness and whiteness were beginning to wane started to emerge. This led to subtle changes in the assimilation policy adopted towards non-British migrants.
Britishness and Whiteness during the 1890s and 1950s
Accepting the special importance of British civilisation and stock, British race patriotism emphasised the familial ties between Britons and Australians. Literature, language, history, heritage, and common ancestry were employed to reinforce the shared character of the British people.1 In the 1870s, the Australian ← 117 | 118 → colonies like other Western nations were experiencing modernisation, which involved the introduction of new communication, transportation, and long work hours. During the social upheavals that this caused, the colonists, like those in other Western societies, were looking for emotional safety through redefining a sense of community in more exclusive, intense terms. At...
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