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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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6 The Introduction of a Multicultural Policy in Australia, 1972–1978


← 168 | 169 →



The Introduction of a Multicultural Policy in Australia, 1972–1978

Australia adopted a multicultural policy in the late 1970s to replace integration as the basis of its approach to migrants. Like Canada an official policy of multiculturalism arose out of a multicultural philosophy—there was a difference between the two. Also similarly to Canada a philosophy of multiculturalism took the place of the ‘new nationalism’ as the foundation of Australian national identity. Moreover, a post–White Australia immigration policy was introduced in the late 1970s after the White Australia policy was completely abandoned earlier in the decade.

The “New Nationalism” and a Non-discriminatory Immigration Policy

If you want to put a label on it, the New Nationalism does as well as any. Call it that, or a greater spirit of national identity, or an increased sense of Australian purpose, or whatever, but the chances are that unless you’re a 67-year old mining magnate who’s a member of the League of Empire Loyalists you’re aware of a certain rare feeling of national self-respect these days.1 ← 169 | 170 →

The foregoing quote from The Australian in April 1973 attempted to capture the essence of what the “new nationalism” meant during the early 1970s. However, it never had a clear meaning. It was an attempt by Australian governments to deal with the demise of Britishness as the core of their national identity by constructing a local nationalism....

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