I The 'White Australia' Policy
II The Shift to Multicultuaralism
III A Post-Multicultural Policy?
IV   Brief Conclusion
Notes and References

Multiculturalism in Australia

by Victor Gunasekara

The year 2001 marked the centenary of the Commonwealth of Australia. Much publicity has been given to this anniversary at the time even though the aspects emphasised in publicly sponsored celebrations are not necessarily representative of the greater part of this period of Australian history. This article will examine one aspect of the history of the Australian Commonwealth during the first century of its existence. This is the Immigration policy which in turn determined the nature and composition of Australian Society. While there are other aspects which are even more important it is immigration policy which has seen the most radical changes. The first part of this article looks at the policy which was adopted which the Commonealth of launched and which lasted for over 70 years. The second part deals with the phase of Multicultualism and which had gradually received bipartisan acceptance. The third part looks at the future of Multiculturalism from the current (2006) perspective which some criticism of the policy has emerged. It considers some aspects relating to the future of that policy. [This article is a revision of an article that appeared in the Queensland Humanist Dec. 2001.]

I - The 'White Australia' Policy

The Commonwealth of Australia was formally inaugurated on 1 January 1901 as a Federation of the six British colonies into which the Australian continent had been divided. These included the areas settled by Europeans as well as those still not settled. These colonies had been set up by the British Government between 1788 (New South Wales) and 1859 (Queensland) as these areas were progressively occupied by European migrants. There was no treaty or other arrangement with the indigenous inhabitants under the fiction that Australia was an empty land (terra nollius). At the time of Federation the six colonies had limited autonomy and jurisdiction over internal matters (under the British crown), and to exercise these Parliaments were set up between 1855 (New South Wales) and 1890 (Western Australia) with Queensland getting its Parliament in 1859. The Government of each colony was headed by a premier.

The idea if a Commonwealth was first mooted in the 1840s but was formally launched at the Federation Conference of Premiers at Melbourne in February 1890 when Henry Parkes the premier of New South Wales moved the motion that "the best interests of the present and future prosperity of the Australasian colonies will be promoted by their early union under the crown".

Subsequent Federal Conventions agreed on a proposed Constitution and when this was approved by the settlers of the six colonies in referenda the way was open for the declaration of the Commonwealth. As a British territory these changes had to be approved by the British Government.

The importance of Immigration Policy

The Centenary of Federation falls this year, and many celebrations have been planned to mark this event and some have already taken place. Thus in March this year the Brisbane river festival was held at which the theme was Multiculturalism. This has been a recurrent theme in most of the celebrations, so it is appropriate to investigate the part multiculturalism has played in the first century of the Australian Commonwealth. Unfortunately for most of the Century the very notion was unknown, even the word had not been coined. [1]As a recent development "Multiculturalism" was anathema to most of the first century of the Australian Commonwealth.

If the first Century of the Commonwealth is treated in a historical manner then immigration policy is a logical placeto start. This is clear when we look at the reasons for federation.

Reasons for Federation

Three reasons were given in the early debates on the question of federating the separate colonies into a single polity. These were defence, trade and immigration.

The defence argument stemmed from the economies that could be got by having a single military at a time when threats were perceived to exist from other colonial powers like Germany and France. These threats did not eventuate. Subsequently the source of the potential threat was transferred to Asia with the "Yellow Peril" being the chosen bogey. This threat did eventuate in the Pacific War but when it happened the defence forces of the Commonwealth by themselves were not able to meet the danger.

The trade argument arose because of the vexatious system of internal tariffs which each of the colonies imposed to protect industry in their respective colonies.

These first two issues were relatively minor and were not the compelling reason for Federation. They will not be considered further here. The most important argument was undoubtedly the immigration question. The early settlers were gripped by the land which had been taken forcibly taken from the Aboriginal people would in tun be taken by other "coloured" people not by open force but by stealth through a process of gradual migration. It was felt that unless there was a uniform policy on this question the individual colonies will not be able to deal with the question.

In the wake of the original settlement of the country by the British many people from Asian countries also migrated. Most of them came from other British colonies in Asia, and as British subjects were not be barred from entry into Australia. But there was also a substantial migration from the Pacific islands (not all of them voluntary) and from parts of Imperial China not formally colonised by the Western powers. The newer migrants from Asia and the Pacific were considered "coloured" and formed a distinct contrast to the original "white" settlers.

Most of the Asians came as either as labourers to work in plantations and in trades like pearl diving which were considered too dangerous for whites, or as merchants or as small scale agriculturalists. Some came attracted by the gold rushes. Very soon racial conflict erupted between the European settlers and the new arrivals from Asia and the Pacific. There were several causes for this conflict not merely the fear that the land would be lost to them. In addition to the Xenophobia there was a competition for jobs. The "white" workers feared that because of the competition of the newer arrivals, many of whom worked as indentured labourers, their own wages and conditions would suffer. So a strong anti coloured sentiment arose between organised labour and the non white migrants, an opposition which was to last long into the first century. It also pitched organised labour against the employers who saw in increased migration the opportunity to get cheap labour and break the power of the unions. This conflict continues to exist even to the present day.

Three Periods of Immigration Policy

We can divide the first century of the Australian Commonwealth on the question of its immigration policy into three distinct periods. The first period lasted from 1901 to 1945. This was a period of unmitigated racism when the White Australia policy reigned supreme. The second phase lasted from 1946 to 1972 and saw some relaxation in the definition of who was regarded as a 'White' person. The relaxations related to the inclusion of persons from the fringes of Europe and of people of part-white descent, often described in the official literature as "half-castes" [2]. The third period covers the period from 1973 to the present day when the White Australia policy was officially abandoned. We will refer to immigration policies in these periods as the Pure-White Australia, the Part-White Australia, and the Nondiscriminatory Policies. The first two policies will be designated collectively as the White Australia policy.

Of course there were exceptions to the ruling policy in each of these three periods. Even during the first period non-White persons continued to be admitted usually on a temporary basis on several grounds, e.g. spouses of those already in residence, students, "assistants" for those in business, etc. Towards the end of the second period there was a partial adoption of a nondiscriminatory policy. And even in the third period, which we are now going through, multiculturalism is still not secure. There is still discriminatory treatment of various ethnic groups in immigration. And of course the whole notion of multiculturalism is under attack by the revival of mono-cultural demands best exemplified by the emergence of the fine Nation ideology.

In this article we shall look primarily at the first two periods we have identified. The third phase is best considered in the context of Multiculturalism which experiment occupied the last quarter of the century under review. This deserves an article of its own which will appear in a later issue of this Journal.

The Racially Discriminatory Policy

One of the first Acts passed in the first session of the new Australian Parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901. This captured the mood of the Nation, summed up in this contemporary ditty in the Brisbane paper The Worker:

What about the coloured alien,
  And the Chow and the Hindoo,
Men of Queensland ask Australia.
  What do you intend to do?
Out of the mill and shop and garden,
  Hawkers, fossikers, and cooks;
Wipe them once for all and ever,
  From the Federal nation's books.

If this was the intention of the new Act, it was doubly deceitful. Instead of specifying the people to be left out it imposed a "dictation test", based on a similar test then used in South Africa (Natal). This test required that any immigrant who "fails to write out at the dictation ... a passage of 50 words in length in any prescribed language" would be deemed a "prohibited immigrant" which was an )ffense in law. The test was usually administered by an immigration officer before the potential migrant disembarked, so many persons who had made a long voyage :o get to Australia were denied entry and turned back. If hey had managed to set foot on Australian soil they would have been charged as a prohibited immigrant.

The idea behind the dictation test was not to see that nigrants were literate and good at spelling but to exclude hem if they were of the wrong colour by imposing an mpossible test. In fact it was specifically mentioned in )arliament during the debate on the bill that the test would iot be applied to "qualified European immigrants" Palfreeman, op. cit., p.81)[3]. If the test had been applied o European migrants many would have failed as they were mite illiterate in any language![4]

The test was also used to exclude Whites who were highly literate but deemed undesirable. Thus in 1934 a Furopean with radical views was asked to take the test in an obscure Scottish Gaelic dialect as he knew most other European languages! Despite the resort to the dictation test subterfuge the policy was referred to quite unashamedly by its supporters as the White Australia policy.

Non-White Residents under the Policy

When the immigration restriction Act was passed there vere already some 30,000 Chinese and 17,000 other non-Europeans already in residence. The latter included the :anakas in Queensland. The question arose as to what was D be done with these non-White residents under the White Australia policy. There was provision to deport those who id not qualify and many Kanakas were actually deported. lowever it was not possible to deport most of the previous nidents, especially the Chinese who then constituted the ulk of the non-White residents of Australia. In their case hey were subjected to increasing discrimination.

In 1903 Chinese then in residence were not allowed to bring their spouses. Soon voting rights and naturalisation was denied to non-Europeans who happened to live in Australia when the Commonwealth was created. In 1902 any "aboriginal native of Australia, Asia, Africa or the Islands of the Pacific except New Zealand" was disenfranchised, and in 1903 they were denied naturalisation. Pensions and even the meagre maternity benefit given to European women at childbirth were denied to Aboriginals and "Asiatics". These racist and discriminatory laws prevailed in full rigout until the end of the second world war.

During this period migration was not only white but mostly restricted to British people. Thus, in the 1920s 90% of immigrants were British. Stringent rules applied to Jews in particular, but Italians, Greeks and other South Europeans fared little better, while East Europeans generally shared the fate of the nonwhites despite their "white" credentials.

It was not difficult to find, even in later more enlightened times, people who still defended the White Australia policy and the outrage it represented. Thus, the historian Geoffrey Blainey writes:

"This so-called White Australia policy ultimately harmed Australia's reputation, persisted far too long, and was often defended with derogatory and unfair rhetoric. Some Australian and Asian critics have exaggerated the policy. They forget that the world was insular: travel was far less common." (Op. cit. , Pp. 135-6)

This apologia seems does not see anything fundamentally wrong in the "so-called" policy, only that it lasted too long. And to call the negativity of the policy a mere "exaggeration" misses the point that the policy did succeed in keeping Australia predominantly "white" even though it had been appropriated from people whom Blainey would unhesitatingly call "black".[5]

Another historian Manning Clark described the prevailing mood in the late 1920s as follows:

"Australia was a country where the people believed in the superiority of the white race. The Prime Minister has often declared that the White Australia policy was one of the basic principles of the country. The Australian Labor Party wanted to cultivate an enlightened and self-reliant community based upon the maintenance of racial purity" (op. cit. VI, p. 300).

This was to become a bipartisan dogma that ruled supreme until the end of the Second World War.

The Post-WWII Changes

When the War ended Labor was in power federally with John Chifley as Prime Minister. It was he who created the portfolio of Immigration to which Arthur Calwell was the first person to be appointed. Calwell was perhaps the most notorious racially biassed Minister ever to hold this portfolio[6]. Even though Chifley is now held in high regard, his views on the White Australia policy were the same as Calwell's. But under their dispensation some radical changes were introduced into immigration policy which could be seen as a shift in the White Australia policy though not its abandonment.

Traditionally the Labor Party has been anti migration if only to preserve the labour monopoly of the unions. But in the postwar years the Government undertook a massive migration program, perhaps the greatest influx of migrants since the colonisation of the continent. The reason may have been the fear engendered by the Japanese thrust towards Australia in the recent War. It was felt that, if only for defence reasons, Australia should have a larger population.

The result was that even though there was a dramatic increase in the number of migrants in the immediate postwar period the door was still closed to non-European people. One liberalisation that took place was to open the door to Southern and Eastern Europeans. Even though they had always been regarded as 'white' it was felt that they were not easily assimilable to the predominant Anglo-Celtic society. So in the immediate postwar period large numbers of Italians, Greeks, and East Europeans were admitted. The preferred geographical area was even extended to the Levant. In the haste to recruit White "Aryans" from wheresoever they came many war criminals were taken in with open arms. But still the majority of migrants were citizens of the British Isles. But even in their case, because Britain had a large Asian population, immigration officers were instructed to reject anyone whose skin colour betrayed a non-European connection by subjecting them to the dictation test.

There was also at the same time a subtle shift in the philosophy behind the entry of migrants. Previously the policy had been one of "assimilation" now it was shifted to "integration". The difference in the two approaches was just a little more than pure semantics.[7] Assimilation implied a much greater homogenization while integration meant that while immigrants had to fit the accepted racial norm there could begreater diversity. In particular "white" migrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were accepted to a greater extent that was previously the case, even though they could not speak English or play cricket.

Another change introduced by Calwell was to have great influence on the admission of people of part-white descent. This has been described as follows by a historian of this period of immigration policy:

"[Calwell initiated] a little-known change to policy on `mixed-blood' immigrants, many of whom were British citizens and sought entry into Australia as imperial power declined and civil unrest in their homelands increased. At the end of the war it became necessary for a 'mixed-blood' applicant to establish 75 per cent `white' descent, not 50 per cent, as before. This could be done by producing birth certificates and authenticated genealogies to establish three European grandparents, or two European and two 'half-castes'. In addition, applicants were required to be of European appearance and European in education and upbringing. Despite the stringency of these conditions, perhaps 10,000 'mixed-blood' people were admitted by 1965, the largest group being the Burghers of Sri Lanka.[8]
Thus Sri Lankan Burghers, Anglo-Indians and AngloChinese can be grateful to Calwell for the relaxation in policy that enabled many of them to migrate to Australia.

Racial purity, though hardly a scientific concept, was deeply ingrained in the popular imagination. The term "half-caste" occurs frequently in official documents in the first half of Australia's first century. This term was used not only with reference to migrants but also with reference to the Aboriginal population. It reflects the depths to which one can slide when one admits the racial principle to however small a degree.

The Labor Party was defeated in the elections of 1949 and a Liberal-Country Party coalition assumed power with Menzies as Prime Minister and Harold Holt as the Minister of Immigration. Initially there appeared to be some relaxation in immigration policy towards Asians. During the war some 5500 displaced Asians were brought to Australia. After the war many went back but about a third wanted to remain. Calwell wanted all of them expatriated forcefully and began doing so until Labor lost the 1949 election. The new Government allowed them to remain as wartime refugees. A similar policy was also adopted towards Chinese who refused to return to China after the communist take-over in 1949. These changes were more due to adverse foreign publicity rather than a genuine change of policy.

In fact the views of Menzies and Holt on non-White immigration were no different to those of Calwell. Holt wrote in a confidential memo to the Minister for External Affairs: "I confess that the more I have to do with the administration of the Immigration Department the stronger becomes my own conviction that we have to hang on to our restriction policy as tenaciously as we can".[9] They were however discreet enough not to say so in public. This in itself was an admission that there was something radically wrong in what they were doing.

Another development of the 1950s was the entry of students from Asia under to Colombo Plan. These students often arrived on scholarships provided by the Australian government. While they were admitted for purposes of study it was made clear that they could not make a claim to remain in Australia after they had completed their studies.

The First Nondiscriminatory Intake

The first intake of non-White immigrants on a nondiscriminatory basis had to await the departure of Menzies from the political stage in 1966. He was succeeded by Harold Holt who appointed Hubert Opperman as his Minister of Immigration.

In March 1966 Opperman initiated a change of policy which led to the first entry of nonwhite migrants in their own right. However, the number of people so allowed was strictly limited in order not to threaten the country's allegedly "homogenous" population. They were generally professional people. [10] The Opperman innovation was deemed a success and the limited number of persons admitted did not create the kind of problem visualised by the White Australia lobby. Also at this time the Labour party, which had been one of the greatest supporters of White Australia changed its policy in favour of a non-Discriminatory policy. The victory of Gough Whitlam over Arthur Calwell as the leader of the Labor party was a dramatic expression of this change of policy.

End of the White Australia Policy

Harold Holt was succeeded by Bill McMahon. The Coalition which had ruled since 1949 was becoming increasingly unpopular. Gough Whitlam won the 1972 election under the slogan "It's Time". He appointed Al Grassby as his Minister of Immigration. It was this administration that finally repealed this the Inunigration Restriction Act of 1901. This marked the formal end of the White Australia policy. Immigration policy in the subsequent period will be the subject of a later article.

The White Australia policy was one of the most blatant racist policies adopted by a Western government. It was perhaps only exceeded by the Apartheid policy of South Africa. But even in this regard elements of apartheid were not entirely absent in the Australian experience, especially in relation to the treatment of Aborigines.

Since the 1950s some minor concessions were given to Asians, both resident here and wanting to come whether as spouses or for other reasons. But these were all rationalised within the White Australia policy, especially the Part-White policy which wiis gradually introduced after the second World War.

II - The Shift to Multiculturalism

In Part I we looked at the immigration policy adopted to populate the Australian continent in the first seven decades of the twentieth century. This was the notorious White Australia Policy, which was the first legislative enactment passed by the new Commonwealth. The greatest victims of this policy were not the Asians and the Africans who were left out but the Aboriginal people against whom genocide – both cultural and physical – was exercised simply because they did not fall into the "White" stereotype.

The Dismantling of the Racial Policy

The move away from the White Australia policy was a gradual process. The first steps were taken in 1966 by the Holt government which permitted a limited number of nonwhite migrants. This number was gradually increased in the two Liberal administrations that followed. The formal end of the White Australia Policy had to await the Whitlam Administration of 1972. But progress towards the elimination of racial barriers as far as the Aboriginal people are concerned has been slow. The demands of the original inhabitants of the country in areas of a treaty, land rights, "reconciliation", compensation for past injustice, and the restitution of their original spirituality have still to be met. [11]

Many reasons have been adduced to explain this move towards a non-racial policy on immigration. Like the abolition of slavery in Western countries the real motives may not be those that have been adduced. In both cases the moral argument has figured prominently but there were pragmatic reasons. Slavery had become an inefficient means of exploitation and racially based immigration policy had become a foreign policy handicap when the world rat was turning against racism, colonialism, and the illegitimacy of the occupation of indigenous lands.

Despite the adoption of the non-discriminatory immigration policy there is, even now, no radical change in the composition of migrants. "White" migrants still make up the bulk as they did previously with those from the UK still forming the largest group. The number of non-whites allowed in however has increased in a numerical sense.

The Ideological Basis of the new Policy

The previous policy was not only a mono-racial one (race being defined by skin colour) but also a mono-cultural one. Culture is a multi-dimensional concept and the specific aspects of cultural identity that are emphasised differ according to the context. A dominant cultural norm was established, and all arrivals (as also the original inhabitants) were expected to conform to this norm. T h e norm was the culture of the original invaders (the "first fleet"), and the policy of enforcing conformity to it was either called "assimilation" or "integration".[12]

It is possible to combine a multi-racial immigration policy with an integrationist ideology, as was the case with the Aboriginals once it was realised that it was not possible to physically eliminate them. In the view of many this same policy could be adopted towards non-white migrants allowed under the new policy. In both areas the Christian churches thought they had a special mission to convert Aboriginals and non-Christian migrants to their own superstitions.

But the problem of forcing conformity to a preset cultural norm proved to be more difficult in the case of the non-European immigrants. Unlike the Aboriginals they came from places with strong cultural traditions, which were "alive" in the international scene. Thus the problem of integrating them proved more difficult.

It was this that led to the debate between the "multiculturalists" and "integrators". This debate is by no means over although the multiculaturalists seem to have won. Thus the celebration of the centenary of federation in Australia was often turned into a celebration of multiculturalism.

The Meaning of Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is one of those terms with no precise definition and is used by different people to mean very different things. It is clear that multiculturalism is closely linked with the idea of ethnicity, and indeed the two cannot exist in independence of each other. Sometimes ethnicity is also linked to race, but it is clear that the two are not identical the former being defined by cultural traits and the latter by physical characteristics.

Mark Lopez, a student of the subject has identified four varieties of the species, as follows: [13]

There are no major differences in the four varieties of multiculturalism listed above. They all center around the delivery of support from Government. CP is probably the mildest but even here there is the separation of ethnic organisations from the general service delivery system for the community at large. WM carries this further, and its strong supporters are in church groups. ESP and ERM are forms of "structural multiculturalism" and focus on the separate identity of ethnic groups. ERM is the most extreme kind of multiculturalism and has the potential of posing a threat to humanist values.

The Origins of Australian Multiculturalism

Australia secured a separate political identity with Federation, but did not develop a distinct national (or cultural) identity. It tended to look upon itself as an outlier of British identity which since the Second World War, with the great migrant influx, became more Europeanised. Since then it has become increasing Americanised.

With this cultural void it is natural that with the extension of the eligibility for migration in the late 1960s there was an attempt to extend the cultural base of Australian society to encompass new cultures. This was greatly aided by the emergence of multicultural movements in the United States and to a greater extent in Canada. There was the inevitable backlash but this has not, as yet, succeeded in reversing the new developments.[14]

The initial impulse towards multiculturalism came from European (i.e. 'white') groups, particularly Italians, Greeks and East Europeans. The early multicultural organisations were set up by them. The local support came from professionals and bureaucrats. It is only gradually that ethnic groups set up by the Asian migrants have entered the broad multicultural movement.

This extension of the multicultural movement have also revealed differences within it as well as diverging aims and aspirations within its various components. While the search for Government support for ethnicity is still the main motivating force other factors have also come into play. In order to investigate the nature of these complex forces operating within the contemporary multicultural movement it is necessary to investigate the components of culture and ethnicity which remain the base of multiculturalism.

The Determinants of Culture and Ethnicity

The terms 'culture' and 'ethnicity' are often used interchangeably but there is no agreement as to what their components are. At one time it was assumed that race was at the bottom of both manifestations. But since the advocacy of racial aspiration came to be called racism, and acquired an opprobrious reputation, the use of this term has been eschewed. But to many ethnicity is a nicer word to replace what racism was formerly used to denote.

There are serious scientific difficulties in defining race even though this term is intuitively obvious to many people.[15] Since the term ethnicity is generally used to avoid the connotation of race we may exclude race from the desiderata of ethnicity. This leaves us with the following characteristics as defining a particular ethnicity: country-oforigin, language, religion, food, customs, dress, sport, dancing, and other less important characteristics. These characteristics may interact in a variety of ways. Thus if a given ethnic group is defined in terms of country-of-origin they may exhibit a diversity in language and other characteristics. Usually most countries (or regions within a given country) will have a dominant language, religion, etc., and individuals exhibiting all these characteristics who will form the core of that ethnic group. Others could form sub-ethnic groups within that broad ethnicity.

Reconciling Ethnic Diversity

If multiculturalism is accepted as the basis of Australian identity then the question arises as to how these various dimensions of ethnicity can be accommodated and reconciled. This is the core of the multicultural question, and a variety of solutions have been offered. The generally adopted solution is a patchwork one. We may cite the multicultural broadcaster SBS as a one way of solving this. In its radio broadcasts it divides up the time into various slots representing the various language groups with almost no interconnection between them. This very often results in creating more problems than it solves. Of the many characteristics we have identified we may consider only the characteristics of country, language and religion as the more important ones.

If we take the criterion of country there are few problems when the country-of-origin is broadly homogeneous in terms of the other determinants of ethnicity as is the case with, say, Ireland or Norway. But when we deal with large countries which are themselves ethnically diverse, like India or Nigeria, there is a serious problem in defining the ethnicity of the country concerned.

When it comes to language it is clear that Australia recognises only English as its national and official language. For reasons of courtesy some information may be given out in ethnic languages but this has not legal validity. As we saw some service organisations like SBS Radio may service the different languages but this is not a major way of supporting these ethnic languages. So when it comes to language multiculturalism must necessarily fail.[16]

It is in the area of religion that some of the most difficult problems arise. Many ethnic migrants are already Christian and so conform to the national stereotype. Even in their case they tend to form ethnic churches (like the Chinese) although other Christians (e.g. from the Indian subcontinent) fail to persuade their religious superiors to prmit religions in their own ethnicity despite the formal church support for multiculturalism. However this problem is minor when compared to militant religions like Islam.

Judaism had been under attack from militant Christian right-wing neo-Nazi elements, but this is not a purely Australian problem but is a flow-on from the Christian anti-semitic tradition. This has now been extended to Islam especially in the aftermath of the terrorist actions of September 11.

The official response to this is not to recognise the failure of multiculturalism in the religious area but to impose new laws against religious "vilification". These laws seriously abridge the freedom of expression, and imposes a serious impediment to fundamental human rights.

III - A Post-Multicultural Policy?

Towards a "Non-culturalist" Policy

It was to remedy the defects of the White-Christian mono-culturalist position that the policy of multiculturalism was adopted. Compared to what it replaced there are distinct improvements in multiculturalism. It prevented some serious discriminatory practices and gave a measure of equality and access to disadvantaged groups. It also provided a framework to legitimise the aspirations of the Aboriginal people (even though many of the new non-white migrants shared the same anti-Aboriginal attitudes of the previous white settlers). A great deal of cultural diversity has been introduced in social and public life. Radical changes in food habits, and in the arts have taken place. There has been an economic spin-off, particularly from trading relationships with Asia, from which the whole nation has benefits. Migrants have brought with them scarce skills and human capital (not to mention business capital) when it was increasingly difficult to attact such resources from the traditional European and North American arenas.

However now in its third decade the shortcomings of multiculturalism are emerging. This is taking place at atime when multiculturalism has moved from its cultural phase into its "structuralist" phase. Moreover this move is towards the militant "Ethnic Rights" position (or what has been referred to earlier as ERM). This has raised the question whether time has come to transcend both the old mono-culturalism and the new multiculturalism. We shall refer to a post-multiculturalist policy as one of nonculturalism.

What is important to stress here is that there are no "ethnic rights" as such but only "human rights". In fact some ethnic rights are directly destructive of long established human rights such as the demand for the outlawing of so-called religious vilification. Human rights inhere to people not because of anyspecial characteristic like ethnicity but simply because people belong to the common genus of homo sapiens. This is the fundamental right that all humans enjoy and it should not be truncated to satisfy partial aspirations such as membership of a particular racial group, ethnic culture or religious affiliation. This is what we have called a non-culturalist policy.

Religion and Secularism

A consequence of Multiculturalism has been to give a higher profile to religion than would otherwise been the case. In Western countries secularism has been progressing ever since the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century. The first half of the twentieth century saw secularism triumphing in all the major Western countries, and indeed even in the rest of the world. In the last decades of the twentieth century religion has been making a comback. This was also the period when multiculturalism became accepted in most Western countries. Is there a connection between the two?

There is of course no necessary connection between the rise of multiculturalism and religion. As we have seen religion cannot really be seen as part of culture. Most religions in the world claim to be universal religions having a relevance to all cultures. Strictly ethnic religions like Judaism, which was supposed to be confined to the "chosen people" have not generally had a large population. Hinduism has also be considered an ethnic religion, but even though it has have a large following most of it is confined to the Indian subcontinent. More recently Hindu revivalists have tried to portray Hinduism as applicable to all ethnic groups, and as such has had a presence in Western countries (e.g. through the Hare Khrishna movement). But non-Indian Hindus as still very small. Universal religions should not come within the ethnic umbrella and as such not be recognised under multiculturalism. So even though the recent revival of religion took place at a time when multiculturalism was receiving recognition there is no causal connection between the two developments.

Similarly there is no essential conflict betwen secularism and multiculturalism. Secularism is defined by the strict separation of church and state. Religion is relegated completely to the private domain. A secular state is more likely to fare better under a multicultural regime than under a mono-cultural regime which is also likely to be a mono-religious regime. Under mono-religion the dominant culture will have adapted to the dominant religion. Thus many institutions and practices in Ireland is likely to be Catholic as they would be Muslim in Egypt. I these countries political pressure is likely to result in the state promoting the dominant religion. This is not merely of making funds to the dominant religion. It will also involve legislating the moral rules favoured by the dominant religion. In a true multicultural system the State may find it too difficult or expensive to support all religions. Thus it is more likely that the various religions are left to fund for themselves through their own resources.

The Clash of Civilizations and Terrorism

A recent development that is likely to have a profound effect on the future of multiculturalism is the so-called "Clash of Civilizations" or the conflict between Christianity and Islam.[17] In this conflict the overwhelming military strength lies with the Christians. It is therefore not surprising that the militant Mislims have chosen the tactic of terrorism, the "weapon of the weak". This has posed a serious problem to the West on how to fight Islamic terrorism. George Bush the US President who has taken on himself the role of guardian of the West (and Christianity) launched what he termed a "War of Terror", but with an enemy difficult to identify it has become more difficult than conventional wars. The multicultural policies in the West over the preceding decades has liberalized immigration laws which have allowed large Muslim communities to migrate to the West. These communities have become a resource for terrorists.

One tactic that has been adopted is to impose stricter controls over minority groups and erode some of their rights under multiculturalism. One of these has been to insist on the "integration" of these minority ethnic groups into the dominant culture/religion. This does away with one of the basic principles of multiculturalism which has given equality of treatment for all cultures with no particular culture being considered the dominant one to which the other cultures have to integrate. Various methods have been used to implement this policy. The primary check has been at the point of migration, and secondarily on the grant of citizenship after the required period of domincile. Interviews an written tests have been imposed to carry out these checks. These ressemble to some extent the "dictation test" and similar measures used during the mono-cultural phase.

IV - Brief Summary

This article has looked at the development of the policy used to populate the Australian continent seized from the control of its original inhabitants over two centuries ago. In century since Federation this policy has moved from mono-culturalism imposed internally by an assimilationist policy imposed on its original inhabitants and externally by barring those that do not conform to the dominant stereotype. While the multicultural policy of the last three decades is an improvement of what took place earlier it cannot be considered the final solution.

But multiculturalism is not exclusively an Australian phenomenon. In the globalized world it too has become globalized. With the ease of tavel more an more people are crossing borders. Global inequalities of living standards and economic opportunity has led to an increase in migration. Social unrest and ethnic conflict in many third world contries has resulted in a flood of "refugees" which has mde countries increasingly multi-ethnic. This has become anyother force moving towards multiculturalism.

In this new century it is time to go beyond the failed experiments of the first hundred years of Federation. Australia should become a humane and secular society in which people are valued in terms of their individual worth and not in terms of any ethnic or religious criterion.


[1] The use of the term Multiculturalism as a description of the social policy of Australia to Al Grassby who was Prime Minister Whitlam's Minister of Immigration.

[2] The 1933 census instruction on the race question was: "If of European race write European, if not write race as Aboriginal, Chinese, Hindu, Negro, Afghan, etc. If a half-caste write also "H.C'". Thus people were encouraged to write "Aboriginal H.C.", "Chinese RC.", if they thought they belonged to these groups. The instruction relating to the Aboriginals was redundant given that they were not counted in the census M any case until the 1960s.

[3] Unless otherwise stated works referenced in this article are to the sources listed in the Bibliography at the end.

[4] An amendment in 1905 replaced "European language" with "any prescribed language", but this amendment was never made effective as no non-European language was ever prescribed.

[5] Blainey also says that the White Australia policy "had been essential for Australia's survival as a young democracy in that era when the gulf; in religion, culture, language and skills, between a Chinese peasant and an Australian worker was unmanageably wide" (p.217). This presents an essentially anti-democratic and racists policy as an essential requirement for the survival of "democracy in Australia.

[6] Calwell is noted for racist witticisms such as "Two Wongs don't make a White" and "I do not think that an occidental mind can follow the mental processes of an oriental mind".

[7] For a discussion of this see Mark Lopez, op.cit.

[8] Andrew Markus, op. cit., p.167. Markus' description of this change of policy as "little known" is very apt. There is not much discussion of this matter even in scholarly studies. Several interesting questions arise, e.g., how did this modification of the White Australia policy come about, what were its implications for the policy of restriction, and the modalities adopted in its implementation, particularly how the requirement of "European appearance" was interpreted and implemented.. It is a subject on which more research is needed.

[9] There was a growing rift between the external affairs and immigration departments on the question of Asian immigration. The former mindful of foreign opinion wanted a change even if merely symbolic while immigration did not want to abandon the White Australia policy.

[10] It was under this change of policy that the present writer was admitted to Australia in 1969 as a permanent (non-white) resident from his home country of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans had been in Australia since pre-Federation times. The first recorded boatload of Sri Lankan migrants arrived in Gladstone in 1880. There were strong opposition to their arrival by the labour unions. Later several others came and they formed a distinct part of the Thursday Island commuity. Even today their decedents form a distinct group.

[11] The question of aboriginals will not be dealt further in this article. It could be the subject of a later article in this series.

[12] There are some subtle differences between these two terms with assimilation being the stronger of the two. In this article we shall ignore these differences and use the term "integration" to refer to both processes.

[13] Mark Lopez, The Origins of Multiculturalism, Melbourne U.P., 2000, p.447 Previously varieties of multiculturalism were divided into 'structuralist' or 'cultural' in one classification, or into 'left' and 'right' on political grounds.

[14] The institutional form of this reaction is seen in the rise of the One Nation phenomenon. Even the mainline politick-movements contain traces of it, and the recent outcry again: the illegal entry of asylum seekers was partly due to i However there are many other issues in the latter phenomenon.

[15] The old White Australia policy has been based on the view that "whites" constituted a race. This is nonsense in anthropological terms.

[16] A category called "non-English speaking" is recognised some ethnic jurisdictions. But the emphasis is to make tl ethnics involved to convert to English rather than perpetuate their dependence of their native languages.

[17 This could more accurately be referred to as a "Clash of Barbarisms" as both Christinaity and Islam have committed more crimes in history than any other religious system.

Short Bibliography