REBEKAH DEVLIN OUT OF THE BOX
HISTORY is a strange thing. Ask a bunch of people to recall an event and you’ll get very different accounts of it. I think people probably recall Australia’s past in varying ways too. We like to think of ourselves as a multicultural country, but this documentary would suggest otherwise.
It’s a warts-and-all look at our White Australia policy. While the horrific plight of the Stolen Generations has been thrust (quite rightly) onto the nation’s agenda, many would be surprised to find out just how widespread Australia’s plans for a white nation were.
I certainly didn’t know that we didn’t allow people of coloured skin onto our shores back in the day — and the day wasn’t that long ago. While we happily threw open the doors to 1 million migrants in the ’ 50s, there was a very strict policy ensuring who was and wasn’t allowed in.
Half the migrants at that time were British. But being British wasn’t enough, as one black Pom discovered. While he was from the right country, his skin colour excluded him from migrating here.
The White Australia policy was widely popular among our population back then.
There’s an old dear in her bowling whites who says, ‘‘ Well I think that they should keep it white as much as possible. I think that there’s no two ways about it, that we’d soon be outnumbered here if we let Asiatics in’’.
The fear of being overrun was tangible. But since the 1970s, there have been just 20,000 boatpeople out of 3.5 million migrants.
Thankfully now we are more accepting of other nationalities, though I think it’s fair to say that there’s still work to be done.
Australia has one of the highest rates of inter-cultural marriages in the world and is now made up of people from 199 nations. I wonder which ones are left? Immigration Nation: The Secret History of Us SBS One, 8.30pm
S.S. Derna: European migrants.