Tuesday, June 21, 2022

A little more colour in Federal Parliament


About the White Australia policy

At the end of the 19th century, Australian colonies had concerns about who was migrating to Australia. With a rise in the number of migrants from China and the Pacific, many colonies passed tough immigration legislation.

The Immigration Restriction Act was one of the first Commonwealth laws passed after Federation. It was based on the existing laws of the colonies.

The aim of the law was to limit non-white (particularly Asian) immigration to Australia, to help keep Australia ‘British’.

Pass or fail: the dictation test

Under the Immigration Act, migrants who entered Australia between 1901 and 1958 could be asked to take a dictation test.

To pass the test, they needed to write 50 words in any European language, as dictated by an immigration officer. After 1905, the officer could choose any language at all. A Chinese immigrant, for example, could be asked to write out 50 words in French, Italian or another language.

Few migrants could pass the test in these circumstances. This meant that it was easy to fail an applicant if they were from an ‘undesirable’ country, had a criminal record, had medical issues or were thought to be ‘morally unfit’.

If an applicant failed the test, they could be deported by the Australian Government.

Some people were exempt from the test. They included non-European Australian residents travelling overseas temporarily, and non-European visitors entering Australia temporarily for work, education or to visit family. These people received a Certificate of Exemption.

The end of the Act

The Immigration Restriction Act and dictation test ended in 1958. Other parts of the White Australia policy, such as the registration of non-British migrants as ‘aliens’, continued into the early 1970s.

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 made it illegal to discriminate against migrants based on their race. It removed the last traces of the White Australia policy.

Despite the White Australia policy, people from all over the world settled in Australia, creating the multicultural society we see today.

Our founding fathers must be turning in their graves as Federal Parliament continues to increase the representation of the many colours that make the current Australian population.

Here are some new and some veterans in the House of Representatives and  the Senate.

Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister

Member for Grayndler

Italian descent


Senator Penny Wong

Foreign Minister


Michelle-Ananda Rajah

Member for Higgins




Member for Reid


Cassandra Fernando

Member for Chisholm

Sri Lankan

Gladys Liu

Liberal Chisom

Hong-Kong born

Dave Sharma

Member for Wentworth

Canadian born

Trinidadian Indian heritage



Senator  Mehreen Faruqi


Pakistan born




Tu Le

Member for Fowler



Dr Anne Aly

Born 29.3.1967, Alexandria, Egypt

Member for Cowan

Minister for Early Childhood Education

Minister for Youth

Linda Burney

Indigenous Australian

Member for Barton

Minister for Indigenous Australians

Sam Lim

Member for Tangney

Malaysian born

Peter Khalil

Member for Wills

Egyptian born

Dai Le

Member for Fowler


Zanetta Mascarenhas

Member for Swan




Hon Anthony Albanese MP

 As at March 2022, there are and 4 current senators and 2 current members of the House of Representatives who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. They are:

  • Senator Patrick Dodson, Western Australia
  • Senator Jacqui Lambie, Tasmania
  • Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Northern Territory
  • Senator Lidia Thorpe, Victoria
  • The Hon Linda Burney MP, the Member for Barton
  • The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, the Member for Hasluck

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