The white picket fence

Let us keep before us the noble ideal of a white Australia, a snow-white Australia if you will. Let us be pure and spotless.Reverend James Back Ronald, member of House of Representatives, 1901

In 1901 Australia was clear about what it wanted to be — and who it didn’t want to include.

One of the first legislative acts of the newly-formed nation restricted non-white immigration. The stage had already been set. Australian Aboriginal people were losing their land and their families. Chinese, Indian and Afghan people were lampooned in the press.

Ideas about racial superiority have influenced our policies and our demographics. These legacies have been difficult to leave behind.

The White Australia policy officially ended in 1973. In many ways Australia’s multicultural policies have become the envy of the world. But has Australia really escaped its racist past?

I am proud to be who I am,now.

Nuengruthai, Sydney, 21More quotes

Related collection items

Explore exhibition objects

  • Lantern Slide - The Slave Gang, Life & Work of Dr David Livingstone, circa 1900
  • Medal - Causes of Variation in Mankind, Cole's Book Arcade, Victoria, Australia, circa 1885
  • Badge - Australian Timber Workers Union, circa 1920s
  • Book - A.O. Neville, 'Australia's Coloured Minority: Its Place in the Community', Currawong Publishing Co, 1947
  • Pamphlet - 'I Stand By White Australia', Arthur Calwell, Australian Federal Minister for Immigration, 1949
  • Leaflet - Australian Labour Party, 'How To Vote', 1967
  • Booklet - A. J. Grassby, 'A Multi-Cultural Society for the Future', 11 Aug 1973
  • Badge - 'Racism Sux', circa 1990s-2000s
  • Badge - White Australia has a Black History, Australia, 1988
  • Sign - The Proprietor of this Establishment is British, circa 1940s
  • Painting - 'Redheaded Bitch (Xenophobia)', Harry J Wedge, Framed, circa 1996