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From ‘White Australia Policy’ to ‘Multicultural’ Australia: Italian and Other Migrant Settlement in Australia

Living in Two Homes

ISBN: 978-1-78635-782-3, eISBN: 978-1-78635-781-6

Publication date: 10 April 2017


Until the early 1970s the infamous ‘White Australia Policy’ restricted certain types of migrants from entering Australia, particularly those of Asian background, with the goal of creating an ‘Anglo-Celtic’ Australian nation. Post-war mass migration, mostly from Europe, had a significant impact on the ethnic composition of the population. Despite attempts to enforce a mostly ‘British’ migration, the resulting programme would see migrants come from many non-British source countries. This ultimately pressured the government into recognition of cultural diversity and eventually in the early 1970s through the proposition of a multicultural approach. In 1973 multiculturalism was officially introduced slowly becoming a defining national asset. From 1933 to 2001, Italians were the second largest migrant group contributing to Australia’s cultural ‘make-up’, right after the ‘Anglo-Celtic’ segment of the overseas-born population (UK, New Zealand and Ireland). However, the Italian migration of the 1950s and 1960s is a closed chapter of Australian migration history, and Australia now embraces migration from countries where it was initially rejected in the pre-1970s period – Asians, particularly those from China and India. While looking at the specific cases of Italian and Chinese settlement in Australia, this chapter also provides an historical overview of Australian migration policies. We argue that the gradual inclusion of non-British migrants in Australia has been guided since 1901 Federation by a form of ‘economic opportunism’ rather than a real intention to change the ethnic make-up of the population and identity of the nation. Despite forming and maintaining strategic partnerships with Asian countries, migration to Australia is still dominated by the need to preserve a distinctive ‘Anglo-Celtic’ character.



Armillei, R. and Mascitelli, B. (2017), "From ‘White Australia Policy’ to ‘Multicultural’ Australia: Italian and Other Migrant Settlement in Australia", Espinoza-Herold, M. and Contini, R.M. (Ed.) Living in Two Homes, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 113-134.



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