The White Australia policy, Arthur Calwell and immigration via the China route - with Jayne Persian

Guest: Jayne Persian, Lecturer in History, University of Southern Queensland; author, Beautiful Balts: From Displaced Persons to New Australians (NewSouth Books, 2017)

Host: Bob Carr, Director, Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI), University of Technology Sydney

The White Australia policy, introduced in 1901, placed severe restrictions on the immigration of non-British and non-white persons. Under Arthur Calwell, Australia’s first Immigration Minister (1945-49) these restrictions were relaxed somewhat, but still remained prohibitive to Asian immigrants. What were the reasons behind the implementation of the White Australia policy? What is Arthur Calwell's legacy, and what role did he play in facilitating the policy's eventual abolition? How did Russians and Russian-speaking Displaced Persons enter Australia via Shanghai – the ‘China route’ – in the post-Second World War period, and how were they received? Why were so few Jewish Displaced Persons accepted for entry into Australia? How were ethnic Chinese refugees treated?

Jayne Persian joins Bob Carr to discuss the history and effects of the White Australia policy, Arthur Calwell’s immigration policies, and the immigration of post-war Displaced Persons to Australia via the ‘China route’.

Australia implemented the White Australia Policy with the aim of being ‘more British than the British’. This policy was later replaced by ‘populate or perish’ in the post-Second World War period, although Asian and non-white immigrants were still largely prevented from becoming Australian citizens.

Russians and Russian-speaking refugees who arrived in Australia on the Hwa Lien in 1947 via the ‘China route’ were welcomed by local populations. While several thousand Russian refugees were allowed into Australia, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese refugees were rejected.

Calwell’s immigration policies changed Australia’s demography and paved the way for the multiculturalism of later decades.

Theme music by Sam J Mitchell.

September 21 2017