"Australian identity", racism and recent responses to Asian immigration to Australia




Jones, Gavin W

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Recent responses to Asian immigration in Australia can be assessed in relation to Australia’s search for a national identity. Australian nationalism has always had its racist elements, reflected in the maintenance of the White Australia Policy until it was abolished by the Whitlam government in 1973. Asian immigration has built up considerably since them, though no one source country has been dominant. Since the late 1970s, generally one third or more of settler arrivals have been from Asian countries. Migrants to Australia from Asian countries have been, on average, more highly educated and have achieved higher income levels than the rest of the population. However, some groups have had below average education levels, notably refugees from the Indo-chines region. The polls indicate majority opposition to Asian immigration, as to immigration in general, though multiple issue opinion polling does not show immigration to be an issue of major concern. Since the maiden speech in parliament by the independent member for Oxley, Pauline Hanson, in September 1996, a “race controversy” has erupted which has reflected not only the persistence of racist attitudes among a section of the Australian population, but also that there is a class and education element: anti-Asian sentiment is more prevalent among the Anglo-Australian working class than among the better educated and those of immigrant background. Avoidance of further widening of these fault lines in Australian society will require statesmanship of a high order from Australia’s political leaders.



racism, Asian immigration, Australia, national identity, immigration policies, immigration patterns




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