Timeline

This timeline traces how prejudice has affected who we are, how we govern and what we believe. For centuries science and politics have influenced how we think and feel about those who have been considered different, inferior, or threatening. Consider whether you think these attitudes continue to resonate today.

  1. 1500 – 1850s

  2. 1850s – 1900

  3. 1901 – 1945

  4. 1946 – 1980

  5. 1981 – today

Ideas about whiteness and the value of racial purity inform restrictive immigration policies in the USA, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Thousands of British children are sent to Australia, Rhodesia, Canada and the USA, whom Australia gladly accepts because of this desire for a 'white' population. These ideas are also used to justify the continued removal of Aboriginal children from their families. In Germany, extreme manifestations of policies of racial purity lead to the Jewish Holocaust during World War II.

  1. 1901

    The newly federated Australia passes the Immigration Restriction and Pacific Island Labourers acts, based on the 1896 Immigration Restriction Act (USA) and the 1897 Natal Immigration Restriction Bill (South Africa). Referred to as the ‘White Australia’ policy it includes a dictation test for the sole purpose of excluding immigrants deemed undesirable. 'There is no racial equality. There is that basic inequality. These races are, in comparison with white races... unequal and inferior.' Sir Edmund Barton, Prime Minister of Australia, 1901

    Chinese Federation arch, Melbourne, 1901. The Chinese community participated in the celebrations of Australian nationhood, but would soon be excluded by the new Federal Government.
    Chinese Federation arch, Melbourne, 1901. The Chinese community participated in the celebrations of Australian nationhood, but would soon be excluded by the new Federal Government.
    Source: National Library of Australia
  2. 1905

    The first modern intelligence test is created. Credited to French psychologist Alfred Binet, it is known as the Binet-Simon intelligence scale. Intelligence testing would be used to justify racial discrimination. It is later accepted that education and economic status are also factors that affect test results.

    'Piebald Possibilities. A Little Australian Christmas Party of the Future', 1909.
    'Piebald Possibilities. A Little Australian Christmas Party of the Future', 1909.
    Source: State Library of Victoria
  3. 1910s-30s

    Campaigns aimed at increasing and improving the local white population are run by Australian women's organisations. They support eugenic measures which exclude 'unfit' white migrants and produce 'well born' white children.

    'In Australia there was power to make the race we wished. It should not only be a white race, but a race of the best whites.' Mrs Priestly, Mothers' Clubs of Victoria, 1935.

  4. 1911

    Britain begins sending child migrants to Australia, resulting in about 6,500 children often being subjected to enforced labour and appalling treatment in the interests of building a 'white' Australia. The practice continues until 1970.

    'At a time when empty cradles are contributing woefully to empty spaces, it is necessary to look for external sources of supply. And if we do not supply from our own stock we are leaving ourselves all the more exposed to the menace of the teeming millions of our neighbouring Asiatic races.' His Grace the Archbishop of Perth, 1938.

    Child migrants, St Vincent’s Founding Home, Leederville, Western Australia 1948.
    Child migrants, St Vincent’s Founding Home, Leederville, Western Australia 1948.
    Source: National Archives of Australia
  5. 1933-45

    Adolf Hitler reveals his obsession with racial purity in his 1925-26 publication, Mein Kampf. These ideas are based on the principles of eugenics and draw on interpretations of Darwinian ideas of fitness and progress. The subsequent Holocaust claims the lives of 6 million Jews. Also targeted, amongst others, are 'gypsies', homosexuals, and people with disabilities.

    Nazi soldiers rounding up Jewish men during Kristellnacht, Germany, 1938.
    Nazi soldiers rounding up Jewish men during Kristellnacht, Germany, 1938.
    Source: Yad Vashem Photo Archives
  6. 1937

    At a national Native Welfare Conference on assimilation policy, Augustus Neville, West Australian Chief Protector of Aborigines (1922-40) asked: 'Are we going to have a population of one million blacks...or are we going to merge them into our white community and eventually forget that there were ever any?'

    'Stolen' children at Kahlin Compound, Northern Territory, 1921.
    'Stolen' children at Kahlin Compound, Northern Territory, 1921.
    Source: Northern Territory Library
  7. 1938

    Evian conference of allied nations reveals an international unwillingness to accept Jewish refugees. Australia reluctantly agrees to accept 15,000 but only 7,500 arrive by 1939 before the doors are closed.

  8. 1944

    DNA as human genetic material is isolated by Oswald Theodore Avery, Colin McLeod and Maclyn McCarty. From the 1940s, evolutionary scientists reject the idea that race is based on physical characteristics.

I respect others by smiling

Morgan, Sandringham, 19More 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