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The Search for a New National Identity

The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1970s


Jatinder Mann

This book explores the profound social, cultural, and political changes that affected the way in which Canadians and Australians defined themselves as a «people» from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Taking as its central theme the way each country responded to the introduction of new migrants, the book asks a key historical question: why and how did multiculturalism replace Britishness as the defining idea of community for English-speaking Canada and Australia, and what does this say about their respective experiences of nationalism in the twentieth century? The book begins from a simple premise – namely, that the path towards the adoption of multiculturalism as the orthodox way of defining national community in English-speaking Canada and Australia in the latter half of the twentieth century was both uncertain and unsteady. It followed a period in which both nations had looked first and foremost to Britain to define their national self-image. In both nations, however, following the breakdown of their more formal and institutional ties to the ‘mother-country’ in the post-war period there was a crisis of national meaning, and policy makers and politicians moved quickly to fill the void with a new idea of the nation, one that was the very antithesis to the White, monolithic idea of Britishness. This book will be useful for both history and politics courses in Australia and Canada, as well as internationally.
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5 Integration Policy in Australia, 1962–1972


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Integration Policy in Australia, 1962–1972

During the period 1962–72 integration replaced assimilation as official government policy in dealing with migrants in Australia. Migrants were now encouraged to incorporate themselves into the dominant Anglo-Celtic society but also to retain elements of their own culture. The policy emerged in response to the unravelling of Britishness and the incremental dismantling of the White Australia policy as the twin pillars of Australian national identity. The “new nationalism,” which stressed a more independent and homegrown Australian image, arose as a possible replacement to British race patriotism towards the end of this period. At the same time whiteness was also broken down.

The Demise of Britishness and the Unravelling of the White Australia Policy during the 1960s and 1970s

In the 1960s Britishness or British race patriotism progressively lost much of its appeal as a national ideal. This had been precipitated by the UK’s decision to seek membership in the EEC in 1961. But the complete move away from the belief that Australians were a British people was a slow process. It did not culminate until the late 1960s, or even the early 1970s. Together with the unravelling of ← 143 | 144 → British race patriotism, this period also saw the breaking down of racially based immigration legislation. This was primarily due to changing international circumstances and moral criticisms of the policy. The changing international circumstances were related to increasing numbers...

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