Australia’s collective desire of nationalism as well as patriotism lead to its formation as a federation and this willingness to unify the divided colonies was a reflection of an ulterior, racist purpose. Federation is the act of constituting a political unity out of a number of separate colonies or states. Before Australia’s eventual federation on January 1 of 1901, there had been years of debate, since the idea was first introduced in Sydney during an inter-colonial conference until its implementation almost twenty years later, on whether or not Australia should federate.
Prior to 1901 the country was divided into 6 separate, self-governing colonies, each ultimately under Britain’s rule and numerous politicians had been pushing for Australia to federate and after being initially rejected during a conference in Melbourne in 1899 it was later given Royal Assent on 9 July, 1900. There were a number of reasons that opposed the idea to federate. Fears of smaller colonies being overpowered, patriotic feelings towards a particular colony, the cost of running a central parliament would be too high, as well as rising hostilities between colonies.
However the grounds in favor of the idea for a federal government took precedence, almost all revolving around a very prejudicial concept. Australia had a very strong sense of nationalist pride, the desire to become a unified nation. They wished to evolve from their origin as second class convicts and uphold the British way of life. This is reflected in their motives to federate: to create a unified immigration legislation to restrict the entry of non-Europeans and creating tariff barriers to protect Australian from foreign contest.
Furthermore, supporters of iteration reasoned that it was part of ones patriotic duty to keep the nation “snowy” white and that it was vital to maintain the purity of their race. “The Mongolia Octopus – His Grip on Australia,” a cartoon published by Bulletin Magazine in 1886 was a mode of propaganda used pointedly to sway the Australian people towards the idea to federate by conveying the dangers of immigration and foreigners. It depicts a grotesque chessman’s face sprouting tentacles which represent the unfavorable and unwanted habits the immigrants would bring to Australia.
The image itself portrays racist views of Mongolia’s and Chinese people. This of racial superiority was often confused with a nationalistic character and this lead to the formation of an Australian White Policy. Australia’s vigorous sense of patriotism and nationality restricted any other racial body of people to enter the country and thus the White Australia Policy was formed. Since Australia was still under British rule the latter shaped its national identity creating the myth of a country settled and occupied by white people of the British empire.
Such a monoculture was considered the norm during this time and by 19th century definition, national identity is uniting a specific people, therefore any other people are excluded. The perception of Australia, therefore, as a land inhabited only by by the British, colonials rejected any other culture. The policy describes Australia’s approach to immigration after federation. It was enacted after the initiation of the Immigration Restriction Bill, which explored the most efficient met nod to excluding those non-white races who intended to arrive in Australia.
The height of such racial discrimination towards these foreigners was during the Lambing Flat riots in New South Wales where nearly 3 thousand Chinese diggers were violently driven from the fields. Therefore, when Australia federated in 1901, the “White Australia” Policy was one of the first acts of legislation passed. Another reflection of Australia’s prejudiced attitudes towards other races was the fact that there was no debate on whether such a bill should be passed but the character of it.
Eventually a dictation test was announced in which a foreigner must write down a passage recited in any language the official wishes. An example of a dictation test passage is: “”The snowman wrapped his gnarled and desiccated digits round his minuscule ukulele and with prodigious and egregious deficiency of musicology essayed a resounding, cacophonous rendition of ‘Waltzing Mantilla’ that caused a phobic frog to hurl itself suicidal into a brackish blabbing. ” It is fair to assume that the complex vocabulary present throughout the passage suggests that it was not intended to allow the foreigner to pass.
The policy was a major influence in shaping Australia’s racial character as it reflected their sense of superiority to other races and to maintain the British way of life by attempting to keep the nation purely white. It provided a moral basis for colonial presence on the land, and a self identification in which the nation could take pride. During this time period, of 1788 to 1914, there was a large influx of foreign immigrants primarily from non-European backgrounds. Their chief purpose for their migration to Australia was for labor however they had numerous other impacts on
Australian society. The general consensus was that foreigners would degrade the white Australian standard of living by introducing unfavorable and unwanted habits. For example, the Chinese were largely blamed for brining opium dens into Australia during that time. The image source is about an Australian Christmas dinner in the future. It depicts a table where all the members except one have disfigured, “foreign” faces to convey the domination the foreigners will have on Australian society whilst simultaneously being critical of the foreigners.
White Australians eared that Chinese and Pacific Islander workers would take their Jobs because of their hard working nature and willingness to work for much lower wages. The white Australians had a fear of the unknown and unfamiliar and as a result their highly contrasting culture compared with the Chinese and Pacific Islanders lead to tensions, conflict and subsequently further discrimination towards the non Europeans races. 75% of Australia’s population at the beginning of the twentieth century was of British heritage and it was this sense of British patriotism and home that caused such hostility towards foreigners.