Free Essay. Impact of the Immigration Restriction Act (1901) in Australia in the 20th Century

Published: 2023-04-11
Free Essay. Impact of the Immigration Restriction Act (1901) in Australia in the 20th Century
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Immigration Law Multiculturalism Public relations
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1105 words
10 min read

Historically, immigration was crucial in Australia. The White Australia Policy (WAP) and the repeal were vital in shaping 20th Century Australia. WAP defined the prejudiced stance of Australia towards immigration. The policy was implemented for various reasons, including favor of the invasion, concerns about declining living standards when immigrants were allowed, and racism. Due to the IRA, Australia protected itself from its Asian neighbors. At the same time, IRA was considered racist by many nations and caused Australian society to be denied the economic and social advantages of cultural diversification and developing strong economic connections (Adusei-Asante, & Adibi, 2018). Australia viewed itself as a multicultural nation but there are still signs of racism. The Immigration Restriction Act (1901) shaped Australian society in the 20th Century as it determined the foreign policy and attitudes of the people towards foreigners.

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Impact of the Immigration Restriction Act (1901)

The Immigration Restriction Act (IRA) was among the first pieces of legislation passed by the Australian government that placed restrictions on immigration and offered for removing the prohibited immigrants under the Commonwealth. One important element of the Act was its dictation test which was useful in excluding unwanted immigrants. As a requirement, the immigrants needed to take a written test in different languages that they did not have any knowledge of. The Immigration Restriction Act was the cornerstone of the IRA, and Billy Hughes, the then Prime Minister, declared that it was the country's greatest accomplishment. Efforts to maintain the white culture in Australia began failing at the start of the second world war when most non-white refugees sought shelter in Australia. The revised Migration Act of 1958 ended dictation tests, and it provided for a straight permit system (Seet, & Paradies, 2018). In 1966, Australia declared that all races were considered for immigration based on their qualifications, ability of readily integrate, and suitability. The announcement was the first step towards abolishing IRA. The government also chose to sanction every international agreement that touched on race and immigration.

The initial intention of the IRA was to create an ethnically homogenous community and rebuild the "British" nation in South Pacific. Yet, there were racist elements of the policy as Australians lacked actual understanding of other races apart from being "different." Ignorance created mistrust and fear. The government also feared that the immigrants would take the available jobs by agreeing to lower wages. The traditional objection to the acceptance of immigrants is that it would bring into the country individuals of lower living and educational standards would reduce the living and working conditions (Marczuk, 2017). WAP was repealed since it was impractical and dysfunctional. After the second world war, the population of Australia was depleted completely. The rapid advancement of Japan in the war persuaded the government that Australia was unsafe from foreign invasion while the population remained small. The unanimous decision was that Australia needed to perish or populate. The outcome was that European migrants were encouraged to go into Australia. When the settlers' numbers proved small, immigrants from any race were permitted into Australia. Racial discrimination was also not accepted after Nazi Germany's atrocities. Foreign policy-wise, Australia was forced into adapting to the changing world. Communism was the main concern, and Australia identified the need for improving its relations with Asia.

The dismantling of the IRA was a contested but unavoidable response to the changing situations and was acceptable for most Australians. The WAP policy restricted the worldview of Australia, where it only focused on Britain. After the war, Britain did not have much control over the largest empire, and this made Australia's worldview ineffective. The IRA was no longer in the economic, political, or social best interests of the country. The IRA impacted Australia in different keyways, including deliberately insulating Australia from the surrounding nations, which made the country isolated from the entire world (Lester, 2018). People viewed the nation as extremely racist. Even the immigrants that Australia wanted were afraid to move into a proudly racist country. After the removal of the IRA, Australia received imminent, large numbers of immigrants globally. These immigrants transformed the Australian landscape, which turned the country multicultural. Australia dramatically changed at the beginning of the 21st Century, especially when the arrival of "New Australians" introduced diverse religions, languages, and cultures. Australia stopped being a British colony alone, dedicated to the concept of White Australia based on fears of foreigners. Australia became a multicultural nation that shared in the politics and economics of the Asia-pacific region (Herbillon, Mirza, & Belleflamme, 2017). The present migration policy in Australia gives people from any country the chance to migrate to Australia regardless of their religion, language, culture, or race. Presently, the government considers racial diversity in Australia as a source of both economic and social wealth. The significant changes in ethnic and cultural backgrounds have also caused mass immigration.


Most of Australian attitudes towards foreigners have changed with the evolution of global attitudes. Australians have understood other religions and cultures. Beliefs and knowledge of other nations have also changed throughout the years. Television has brought various influences and cultures to all Australian families. While most Australians have accepted the new role of the nation as a multicultural country, there are still strong practices of racism. WAP and racism are still active in the attitudes and foreign policy in Australia. Official Australia is still dedicated to developing efficient connections with Asia and maintaining an immigration program with large Asian counterparts. Some Australians regret the demise of the WAP policy because they are still afraid of people different than themselves.


Adusei-Asante, K., & Adibi, H. (2018). The'Culturally And Linguistically Diverse'(CALD) label: A critique using African migrants as an exemplar. Australasian Review of African Studies, The, 39(2), 74.

Herbillon, M., Mirza, M., & Belleflamme, V. A. (2017). Australia-South Asia: Contestations and Remonstrances. JEASA: Journal of the European Association for Studies of Australia, 8(2).

Lester, E. (2018). Making Migration Law. Court of Conscience Issue 13, 2019, 27.

Marczuk, K. P. (2017). Origins of Immigration to Australia, 1787-1914. Arhivele Olteniei, 31, 39-50.

Seet, A. Z., & Paradies, Y. (2018). Silenced Realities: The Significance of the "Old Racism" in Contemporary Australian Society. Journal of Australian Studies, 42(4), 445-460.

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